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December 2019


SWB goes loco for llamas this Christmas.

Festive greetings Sour Wee Readers. I could have written a lovely post about the congenial nature of a family Christmas, but that’s not really what you expect so I’ll stay true to form and share this rant instead. I wrote it on the 23rd, in the midst of a shopping frenzy. I’m still recovering, if I’m speaking frankly.

In the interests of public safety, do not, for fuck’s sake, venture anywhere near Forestside on the run up to Christmas. Same goes for the retail park opposite, or actually anywhere this side of town because proper, full on madness is afoot. I trotted down on Monday, clutching my ‘bags for life’ at 8-15. Now, in fairness, I survived Sainsbury’s without incident: people still afforded me the common courtesy of not ramming trolleys into the back of my heels, which I always find a bonus.

M&S, on the other hand, was more chaotic than my large intestine after a feed of sprouts. It was even worse than last year, when it was totally nuts too, but I went down at 10am so I suppose was asking for it. (‘Will we just go home Mummy?’ the Older Child asked, as she sensed my rage escalating).

At 8-25, I was at least two hours too late. The store was almost at a standstill, since the executive decision had been taken to park those big feck-off green carts full of carrots and potatoes in the middle of the aisles. About a million people were trying to squeeze past, peering over the teetering truckloads of turkey and biscuits and booze. The ones who most pissed me off though, were the dithering eejits ON THEIR PHONES. Really, would this be the time of day to enquire whether your son’s new vegan girlfriend prefers oat to soya milk for breakfast? Yes, we get it, you’re awfully middle class, now move your cashmere clad ass along.

However, I’m not really one to be calling anyone else middle class, since I was on the hunt for lychees for Christmas breakfast. I have a fondness for lychees, because when I lived on Reunion Island, 20 years ago, now December was ‘lychee season.’ It was considered rude to show up to anyone’s door without a plastic bag full of them, and many people had lychees trees in their gardens. (We didn’t, but we still the happy recipients of many a bag). Here you can buy a small punnet with no more than 7 in it for £2-50, but I buy them anyway to remind me of when I was young and carefree.  I’ve been feeding them to the girls ever since they were old enough to chew, and they are their absolute favourite fruit. They’ve requested extra lychees this year ‘From Santa.’ Anyway, I couldn’t get near the fucking lychees, because M&S employee of the year Valerie was pushing a cart full of festive fruits which blocked access to mangoes, pineapples and papayas, (anyone else think papayas have the taste and texture of soggy cotton wool soaked in piss?) and she met her old friend Tricia, who said she had forgotten Valerie still worked in M&S. But she did!! Fancy that!

Valerie had been up from 2am, to be in work for 4. ‘You must be very tired,’ said Tricia, who with such powers of deduction should clearly be working for MI5.

‘Is there any fucking chance?’ I thought to myself, while these banalities were exchanged. I met a few people I knew myself, but there was no lingering for us, just the briefest of salutations in a ‘may the force be with you’ sort of way. I came over all a-quiver and had to leave and have a restorative coffee in General Merchants. I would have just gone home, except I was on a mission to buy a replacement llama from Dunnes, which had still to open. I’ll explain.  LSB had purchased the children ‘heat up cuddly llamas’ on Saturday, because he likes to buy them things, to curry favour. It doesn’t make them any more biddable, I can tell you that. He’s a lot to learn, my husband. They have, as I may have mentioned, a multitude of cuddly toys, and have no need of a llama, heat up or otherwise.

Anyway, on Saturday evening we were cordially invited for dinner at our neighbours’ house. It had been a fraught sort of a day and so glad was I to see my friends that I took to the drink with gusto. I disgraced myself really, not a bit of need for it, at 40 years of age.

The Small Child had her llama clutched under her wee arm and wanted it heated up, to show it off in all it toasty glory. My poor friend, who was simultaneously refilling wine glasses and slicing up Christmas cake, popped it in the microwave.  I think she hit minutes rather than seconds because the next thing we knew an acrid stench emanated from the kitchen.

‘Oh shite,’ she yelped, ‘I’ve cooked the llama!’  racing in to rescue it. A terrible sight awaited us.

The glue was all melted and the microwavable bag had exploded. The beans had stuck to the glue which created the unfortunate effect of a llama with a bowel disfunction, with little grey beans stuck to its undercarriage, like a bad dose of the runs.

My friend felt very bad. She felt it was all her fault, but I said really it was the child’s fault for omitting to remove the heatable innards. ‘Melted llama anyone?’ said my friend’s husband, who’s a witty sort of a chap.

We set the llama outside on the window sill, so we weren’t overcome with fumes while we sipped our coffee and ate chocolate.  It looked in at us with a baleful expression. It was amazing, opined my pal Brenda, just how bad a polyester cuddly toy could make one feel.

Hence there I was, on the morning of the 23rd, on the hunt for a llama that my child most definitely didn’t need but felt strongly that she deserved. The queues in Dunnes were long and I didn’t feel like asking the stony faced assistants for help. Home I came, llama-less.

Still, despite this episode we’ve had a rather lovely Christmas. LSB forked out for a Nintendo Switch, an idea to which I was was thoroughly opposed, and I’m thrilled to say that the present the kids have so far enjoyed the most is a ‘colouring-in fairy house’ which has kept them busy all yesterday evening and they’re still at it now. Happy Saint Stephen’s day, everyone, and FFS don’t be running down to the Next Sale. We’ll have none of that nonsense please.









A C-Change for SWB

My Tourette’s is back with a vengeance. The Older Child heard me effing and blinding away in the kitchen the other day, when I  burnt the arse out of a saucepan, cremating my chickpea curry.

In she trotted, forefinger aloft. ‘MUMMY,’ she said, ‘there is NO NEED for that sort of language.’

Luckily she wasn’t in my sub-consciousness last night, when in a dream I told a man we know that he was not just a misogynist, but also a narcissistic c**t. In the dream a friend was remonstrating with me, saying that I had really ‘let myself down’ and needed to ‘have a word with myself’. I woke up most perplexed, although IRL, the man in question is both of the above and would have deserved the lambasting entirely.

‘I must moderate my language,’ I sighed to LSB as we headed to Harper’s Yard this morning. ‘It will be my New Year’s Resolution. In fact I’ll use up all my c**ts by Christmas.’

‘You do listen to the news don’t you?’ he said. ‘Good luck with that.’

It would be easy, wouldn’t it, to slide into a funk after those election results. But sometimes, one has to look around, and when I do that, I see I’m surrounded by the good people of South Belfast, for which I’m most grateful.

Take yesterday morning, when I nipped down to Ormeau parkrun. Sometimes, especially when it’s 4 degrees and you’ve brewed a pot of Fair Trade Rwandan coffee it can be hard to prise yourself out of your pyjamas.  But since I had arranged to meet my friend Grace, off I hopped, leaving a hungover LSB with the children, who were watching ‘SpongeBob Squarepants’. I think I got the better deal.

Arriving late, I found Grace deep in conversation with a couple of park run tourists, one of whom hailed from New Zealand. ‘That volcano,’ I heard Grace tell him, ‘had been rumbling away for ages. They shouldn’t have let anyone near it.’

He nodded, and on they talked about seismic activity. It confused me, so I turned to his friend.

‘Are you from New Zealand too?’ I asked him.

‘No, I’m Dutch,’ he replied.

‘Oh, Grace speaks Dutch, I said.

‘Hallo, hoe gaat het,’ he said to Grace.

‘Het gaat goed met mij dankjewel,’ she replied.

I don’t think either of them expected this chat as they shivered at the start line, but then they haven’t met Grace. Grace is 91 and has done over 50 parkruns. Her running career began at 89, after open-heart surgery put paid to her mountain hiking days. I want to be like Grace when I’m a nonagenarian, though given our current world leaders, the chances of the planet surviving the next 50 years, never mind me, is looking increasingly unlikely.

Speaking of leaders, who should we meet next but Claire Hanna. Any other woman, given the week that’s been in it, would have stayed at home, jammy clad and cosy, but not Claire. There were hugs a plenty for her, and rightly so.

Had it not been for news of her success on Friday, I could have sunk into a deep despondency.  Why I’m even remotely shocked at politics anymore, I don’t know, but how that cabinet remains in office, with the collective moral integrity of the African dung beetle, baffles me. It’s hard not to feel that something very wrong is afoot.

But one must have hope.

‘It’s desperate, isn’t it?’ I said to Grace, as we ran round, her like a sleek ninja in her black hoodie and leggings. I was supposed to be offering her encouragement as we ran into the icy wind, but on I moaned. ‘I find,’ said Grace, as her glasses steamed up with her exhalations, ‘that you must have hope, and count your blessings. That’s what I try to do.’

Life has tried to quash Grace, but she’s not having any of it. This week she told me that she didn’t have time to go out walking in Belvoir Forest, as she had too many ‘old people’ (her words) to visit in care homes around Belfast. She baked a Christmas Cake, and taught English at the weekly classes for refugees at her church. In the New Year she’s going out to the Bahamas to help residents displaced by Hurricane Dorian.

So, if you’re feeling a bit wobbly after that election, my advice, for what it’s worth, is to be a bit more Grace. It’s hard to feel low when you’re looking to the future with hope, grit, and determination.

Then this morning at Ormeau Bowling Green, I drank coffee and ate cake at Harper’s Yard, the community café run by my friends Martina, Claire and Brian. Lots of my friends were there, and some had brought their dogs. I find petting animals soothes me when I’m fraught, so I was in luck.

At each Harper’s Yard event they support a local charity, and this time they were raising money for the NI Hospice. Taxes really, should be keeping the Hospice afloat, but since the Tories don’t give a f**k about the NHS anymore, or people, whether they’re dying or not, I guess it’s up to volunteers to bring in the funds.

So in the New Year, I’m going to try and replace the ubiquitous ‘c’ word with another one: ‘community’. I think we could be in a right auld mess under Boris’s direction, so sticking together may be more essential than ever.

Keep going, I reckon, and if you have to turn the air a bit blue while you’re at it, then so be it. There’s worse things after all: just look at the PM.







SWB welcomes the ‘Elf on the Shelf’

Folks, I caved, I gave in, I acquiesced to my children’s demands: on Monday, the ‘elf on the shelf’ arrived. I had been vehemently opposed to this notion. The girls already had experience of elves at school, where teachers with imagination in abundance, created a fun festive atmosphere with elves up to mischief galore. This was sufficient enough tomfoolery, I felt, and hoped that I, could therefore remain exempt, left in peace to pursue my own Advent activities. I had high hopes of running 5km every day until the 25th, or maybe even ON Christmas Day itself when we have a tradition of doing Wallace parkrun. Last year a friend brought a bottle of prosecco and chocolates. Oh, what comfort and joy.

My aim, this Advent, was to reap the rewards of headspace, shed some pounds and remove myself bodily from the temptation of eating crackers and cheese at 6pm while preparing the evening meal.

Eight days in, I have managed two runs, one of which involved jogging to a local watering-hole; drinking a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (albeit a small one) then jogging home again. I mean, does that even count as a run? I do hope so: much of it was uphill and thus decidedly unpleasant.

It’s now the 8thDecember and my stomach remains portly and my nerves remain fraught.

Well of course they are. Who has time to go jogging when they have a house to decorate, nativities to attend, an actual JOB, and now this bastard elf as an extra obligation? Who needs to pay to go to a pantomime, I ask you? Our lives are pantomime enough.

I tried to dissuade my children from having an elf by describing the evil antics some of them got up to. I heard of one, I told them darkly, who peed into a basin, then left it in the laundry room, where he proceeded to unclip all the socks and pants off the whirl-i-gig drier so they all plopped down into the piddle. ‘Imagine, your lovely socks covered in elf WEE,’ I said.

‘Our socks aren’t lovely,’ said the Small Child. ‘They are all odd and some have holes in.’

‘That must have been a Black Elf’ said the Older one gravely. ‘I’ve heard they’re really bad. Green ones are nice. Red too.’

‘Hmmm…’ I said.

LSB beckoned me over. ‘See that parcel that arrived yesterday?’ he whispered. ‘I ordered them an elf!’ He looked ever so pleased with himself, ebullient, even, full of Christmas cheer.

‘For f**k’s sake,’ I said. Although it was he who instigated the elf’s arrival, it was I who removed it from the twenty tons of packaging (thank you Amazon) and arranged it so it was ensconced in the sweetie tin with a Freddo tucked snugly under each arm to greet the children on Monday morning. Jeepers, the excitement when they blundered,  bleary-eyed into us, to announce its arrival. ‘I thought it was a dream!’ said the Small Child, her face aglow. ‘But it’s here! And its HOLDING FREDDOS!!!!’

Turns out there are some benefits to being a curmudgeonly sort of mother. If you actually do something agreeable, your children can hardly believe it.  Every morning, they have been dancing down the stairs and going ‘on the hunt.’ They were thrilled to find it tangled in some wool suspended from lights in the kitchen, its hat caught in the yarn. I didn’t even have to do that; gravity took care of it. The elf has been having a grand old time to itself: sitting atop our Christmas llama decoration; stealing their dad’s beer from the fridge, and their favourite so far- climbing inside a toy ‘tree puppet’ and writing ‘HO HO HO’ with Lego and hair bobbles. (I was quite proud of that one, I must admit.)

And here I must share a startling revelation. I have LOVED this. Life, as I’m sure you can appreciate can be so very serious and GLUM. Oh, the all-pervading glumness of it at times. I mean, who in the name of God would ever of thought Princess Anne could bring a moment of levity to world politics? We must be in a very dark place indeed. And BoJo and Corbyn- send in the clowns indeed. So introducing this gentle silliness, this whimsy, is most welcome. Last spring I went to see the Australian cartoonist Leunig chatting with Pádraig O’Tuoma in The Black Box, and he was very keen on embracing the whimsical aspect of life. Being curious, being open, daring to wonder when everything seems to have gone to shit. Sometimes life needs brightened by the lightest of touches, and a sense of magic and nonsense. Very soon my little pair will be too old to give a flying f**k what an elf is up to, so for the moment, it’s here and giving us a bit of its craic. I’m beginning to suspect it may even be more for me than them.





SWB feels less than festive

In our house, everything is a catastrophe, and I mean everything. Case in point, those bastard PTA Christmas Cards. Do all schools do this these days? For the uninitiated, the children illustrate a blank piece of card which you then send off with a cheque and a lot of aggravation to receive 6 copies back  to show friends how talented your off-spring are.

Last year, I organised this whole fucking charade on behalf of the PTA and the whole experience put years on me- motoring back and forth to Holywood and counting cash that was actually labelled ‘dinner money’ or opening envelopes which allegedly contained £18 but were, in fact empty.

On Tuesday, the children arrive home in a state of excitement, bordering on agitation. ‘We have to do our Christmas cards! By tonight! Can I do a dog wearing a hat?’ I pass the felt tips and tell them the dog can be doing whatever he wants, as long as I don’t have to draw him. Off course, I end up drawing numerous dogs on a practice sheet, ‘just for ideas’ before the Small Child finally decides that her first attempt was her finest. I check my 900 What’s App messages and see that they have actually have until Friday, which gives them ample opportunity to decide they hate their designs and contemplate other notions.

The Older Child has been practising her reindeer drawing skills when she suddenly becomes distraught because she has LOST HER CARD. ‘It’s ok, don’t panic!’ I say, as I am trying to fry chicken thighs and onion, as I run between the laundry room unloading the tumble drier while I ask the Small Child her spelling. ‘But remember Georgina,’ the Small Child says gravely, her forefinger in the air: the teachers said ‘NO REPLACEMENTS’. Sobbing begins anew. I look longingly at the wine bottle I have opened to add to the Spanish Chicken. ‘There isn’t a bat in hell’s chance of only flinging this wine into the dinner this evening,’ I think to myself as I pour a glass. It is only 6.25 and I had hoped to hold off until 9pm, when I have an episode of ‘Big Little Lies’ to look forward to.

‘And Mummy,’ the Older One cries, I still have to make the robot!’

‘What robot?’ I growl.  She came home on Monday wittering about this and I assumed naively that this was a product of her lively imagination, since there was no mention of it in her homework diary, and I continued to lie on the sofa like a collapsed lung.

She hands me a small crumpled note which I read, my heart growing wearier with every word. ‘This week, instead of numeracy homework, children are to make a 3D robot (not life size!) You can get plenty of ideas for these on Pinterest!’

I fucking HATE Pinterest. Nothing on Pinterest ever turns out to be ‘simple’: even navigating the site isn’t simple.  Making a robot CERTAINLY isn’t simple: you end up needing a soldering gun and access to the technology department in local school.

Now you would think, what with me being a keen recycler and re-user of stuff, that this sort of project would have me skipping about with excitement, but you would be wrong. I am too busy to be painting yogurt pots and sticking them to shoe boxes with double sided tape. I am cooking meals from scratch and chopping up fresh pineapple and oranges to boost our immune systems so we don’t fall prey to the pestilences stalking the country.

I know that I’m missing the point, that of course it is my 8 year old, not me, who should be cutting and sticking and creating. Sadly though, it never quite works out this way does it? And you don’t want to be the parent who sends the child in with a pile of shite while everyone else’s junk model looks like something you might pay £40 for in St George’s Market.

The other day my godchild and her little sister came to visit and expressed a desire to watch ‘Peppa Pig’. ‘Alright,’ I said, because shoving small children in front of a television is a very easy way of looking after them. I recommend it highly. I thought that I must have endured every episode of ‘Peppa Pig’ ever made, but apparently not, as there was a new one. In this one, Madame Gazelle asks the children to make a castle out of junk, and Peppa and Suzy Sheep and Pedro Pony all clap and ‘ooh’ and ‘ah’. Their parents, however, exhibit less enthusiasm, and when they arrive with the finished articles their faces convey great exasperation. I saw a lot of myself in the grim expression of Mummy Pig.

It is now Sunday and the robot-making is still in the early stages. For four days the robot has consisted of the recently emptied shoebox, a pair of shit binoculars that my dad got for free on a cruise and part of a CD holder. It would not win any prizes for ingenuity. ‘I think it would look better painted,’ I say, ‘except obviously we’re not going to do that.’

The Older Child then, and I was rather impressed with this, suggested tinfoil, which obviates the need for any pesky painting and glue, and we might make some toilet roll arms. That’s as good as it’s going to get, I’m afraid. Tragically, all these creative ideas seem to have lit something within them, and late this afternoon they used my good scissors to cut up cardboard from which they plan to make festive elves to stick to the windows. These can jostle for room alongside the black cat stickers which are still up from Halloween festivities. I’m contemplating just buying Elf Hat stickers and adding those on. I may then pop hearts round them for Valentine’s so they can be ‘Love Cats’ and perhaps get them bonnets for Easter. I’m actually starting to embrace all this myself. How very odd.