Monthly Archives:

May 2020


Dog Day Disasters

There are many reasons why you shouldn’t get a dog. So if you are thinking of acquiescing to the demands of your off-spring (or trying to convince your husband to bow to yours) you may wish to read the following first, just to help you arrive at an informed decision.

I have spent a great deal of time during this Lockdown period, convinced that my family are trying to gas light me. Perhaps you have felt the same. Here’s how it goes:

ME: Where’s my phone?

OFF-SPRING (in unison, playing on their f**king Nintendo): Don’t know. (And don’t fecking care either).

Two hours later the phone is located on their bedroom floor where one child films another leaping from bed to bed while giving a running commentary in a fake and grating American accent.

Now the dog has started conspiring against me too. Single slippers are deposited on the lawn, as are table tennis bats. When I’m weeding and set down my trowel for five seconds she make off with that too, and my gardening gloves don’t fare any better. I constantly lose things anyway so I don’t need children and animals adding to my messy, muddled mind.

I’m not sure whether our dog thinks she is a person or whether she regards the rest of us as her pack of dogs. Either way, she likes to be very involved in every activity, and whines pitifully if the children have the audacity to go into the garden without her. LSB went for a snooze the other day and woke up with her asleep beside him, head on the pillow. He jumped, I laughed, she snored. It’s like having a shadow following us about and God help her when normality returns, because she won’t want to be left.

The cat is still non-plussed at her arrival, especially because Tilly devours all her food which is costing us a fortune in fecking Gourmet Purina pouches. At least they have settled down around each other now- the first few weeks it was like living in an episode of ‘The Wire.’

I am acquainted with a local poet, whose Twitter bio reads: ‘Servant to a menagerie of creatures.’ Join the club, I thought at five this morning, as I wandered around the garden trying to convince the dog to pee. This is not the norm, I might add, but unfortunately when your greyhound manages to impale herself on some unknown sharp object while on her morning walk to the meadow, this is the outcome.

Some lengthy surgery ensued, and her thigh needed to be all stitched together; no easy feat when you consider the breed’s skin, which is taut and thin. The poor vet didn’t have much to work with. Quite a mischief she did to herself, and we now have to monitor her day and night lest she escapes from her collar of shame and rips out her stitches. She has been put on strict bed rest, which, for a youthful energetic creature like herself, isn’t so much a challenge as an impossibility. Moreso for us, trying to police her. You’d have better luck trying to get Dominic Cummings to STAY AT HOME. Incidentally, when she refused to pee outside this morning I put Saturday’s Guardian on the floor to see if she would urinate on that, but she said no, she’d have another go outside before she’d relieve herself on your man’s face. Finally, when I took off her collar she deigned to go. There’s forty-five minutes of my life I’ll never get back.

She has only managed to defecate once in the last forty-eight hours, due to the combined effects of trauma, a general anaesthetic and a reduced appetite. The Small Child though, still managed to find the solitary shit, and not only stand in it, but proceed to slide down the slide with most of the canine faeces on her trainer, (which were, of course, white) thus necessitating the cleaning of both slide and shoe.

I have thus spent the last two days in a state of high agitation. We are, naturally, besotted with her, and she has rallied so well. The Mothership was dead against me getting a dog, (past experiences have been disastrous) until she met Tilly, and now asks me to send her a photo every day. The reason she was so agin getting her was that it’s just so flipping awful when something happens to them. Plus I’m forever ringing her to whinge about my over-burdened life and there is no doubt that having a dog at least doubles the housework. Even a shorthaired dog like herself moults something shocking.

But getting the dog, (at a lesser extent our tetchy and taciturn cat), has helped bring  us together and give us a common focus during this time of weirdness and social distancing. It helps dispel the angst and gloom, and when I’m not treating them with flea powder and carting them off to the vet, it’s been a welcome reprieve.


SWB gets into Leather

It has just dawned on me why hippies go around smiling beatifically and it’s got nothing  to do with the free love, psychedelic drugs or dropping out of the rat race. I think it’s all down to their casual disregard for structured clothing and tight waistbands: that’s why they look like they don’t give a f**k. How I hate an underwired bra and skinny jeans, that leave your tummy with cruel button indentations and deep channels running down your poor squeezed thighs.

I haven’t put on a pair of tights since Lockdown began and this has made all the other hardships much easier to bear. I think my favourite part of summer holidays is not packing tights: chucking on a diaphanous dress and heading to the pool with all notions of my M&S black opaques forgotten. And do your tights ever go on in a twist, as you fight your way into them in the half-light of an icy winter morning? God, how I hate that. Hell for me, would be going round for all eternity wearing twisted hosiery, with only instant coffee to drink and listening to Baby Shark on a loop. I’d be well miserable, (but that, I suppose, would be the point.)

So, in an effort to see me in something other than leggings and pyjama bottoms, didn’t Himself go online and order me a selection of garments. Now there was me trying to be green and ecologically aware, and well-pleased with myself I was, that I hadn’t bought anything new in months, (not even an ethically sourced cotton t-shirt.) He’d been reading the Guardian Weekend and there was Jess Cartner-Morley parading about in a pair of high-waisted leather look trousers. Naturally enough, what with her being a fine looking girl who can, unlike me, tolerate wearing heels, (I HATE HEELS, fecking torture for feet) she carried them off with aplomb. I’m not sure they sat so well on my five feet nothing and increasingly pot-bellied frame. I’m keeping them though, because when we emerge from this, I will need something to heave myself into.

But he hadn’t stopped there. Oh no. There were three other leather look articles for me to peruse, including one pair of orangey-brown trousers that looked like the sort of protective clothing one would don if they were checking the accumulation of micro-plastics in their local sewerage treatment plant. Two skirts too, which were, I feel an optimistic purchase on his part, that I’ll tart myself up since it’s the weekend and inject a bit of glamour into proceedings while he makes me a French Martini. ‘Look at their nice soft waistbands,’ he said, looking hopeful. Perhaps I should apply some fake tan and we could do an online poll to help me decide whether to keep them or not.

I wore my black trousers to Sainsbury’s on Thursday evening and met a friend. Instead of doing the decent thing and inquiring about her family’s health, my opening conversational gambit was, ‘Do you like my new trousers, or do I look like Patsy in Ab Fab?’  ‘Very fetching,’ she replied and kind soul that she is, didn’t make any reference to mutton or lamb. She was wearing a face-mask though which probably helped when arranging her features into an expression of positivity. I think she could see the demented look I had about me and had no wish to crush my wilting spirit.

There we are then- I’ve covered fashion, hippies and notions about the afterlife. Happy Friday everyone- now away out there and nail down all your new patio furniture and trampolines before this gale blows them clean into Belfast Lough.






SWB feels a bit wobbly

As I write this my husband is out in the laundry room, apologising to the cat. ‘I’m sorry about this Izzy,’ he begins, ‘but the shop had none of your usual fare, so you’ll have to make do.’ I can only imagine the cat’s face when faced with a bowl of dry Purina pellets instead of her Gourmet sachets. She’s been in terribly poor humour since the arrival of the greyhound, and takes herself in to LSB’s study to shout at him, or lands on his head at about 4am and stats kneading his hair. She knows not to bother with me, as I can withstand the yamming of a cat better than he. She has good reason for finding fault with the dog, because Tilly keeps finishing off all dinners so when she goes back for her second helping she is confronted with the licked clean surface of an empty bowl. It’s enough to give a cat a complex.

It’s been a strange auld weekend. It should have been Georgina’s First Communion on Saturday, which is the most Catholic thing you’ll ever hear a Protestant from North Down say. I’ve been round the houses at bit with religion, but since I’m Church of Ireland, Catholicism isn’t too much of a leap.  I quite like going to Mass actually. I like the quiet and the introspection and the fact that no one bothers me for an hour. I find myself drifting into a kind of meditative trance, and almost always come out feeling the better for having gone. Nobody ever goes in for any of that mad carry-on: waving their hands in the air and clapping like a seal on ketamine, which is a relief after I flirted with the Pentecostals as a teen (after which I  think I may still be suffering from PTSD). I didn’t realise how much I’d missed having it in my life until I listened to the wee message the Parish Priest sent out for the kids, and when he said the Blessing  I burst into tears. I’d been going every week you see, and it’s been nine weeks now and it was just so comforting to hear. So there you are, that was surprising.

Less surprising was that Herself went and got her dress and was halfway into it until LSB shouted ‘PUT IT AWAY’ because sure she would have had it clarried in muck in five seconds flat. The next thing she has it laid out on the floor which hadn’t been mopped in at least 3 weeks as she tried to manoeuvre it back into its protective bag. And there was me, just trying to drink my coffee in peace. There’s a lesson there. Just don’t think, that you will ever, during this lockdown, get to enjoy a hot beverage. You’ll be lucky if you get it down you before it’s cold, never mind being able to appreciate the rich notes of caramel and hazelnut in your Single Origin Columbian Roast. ‘PICK IT UP OFF THE EFFING FLOOR,’ I shrieked, which was rich for a woman who thirty seconds previous had been wiping away tears after listening to a priest on You Tube.

Another thing that made me sad was that Harper’s Yard was cancelled. For the uninitiated, Harper’s Yard is the brainchild of some friends of mine and their fabulous neighbour Brian Harper. It’s a simple enough premise- neighbours meet to eat cake, drink coffee and chat, and make a donation to a local charity. But here’s the thing- anything that looks so simple is never simple. HOURS of icing and baking and organising go into it.  This was going to be a special Twilight Session with wine and music and fairy lights. The beneficiary this time was Cruse Bereavement Services, which LSB and I have both availed of over the last five years. In fact, were it not for the counsellor I saw, who told me that I ought to write, I maybe wouldn’t have started the blog at all, which as I’ve said, has been a form of therapy in itself. Of course they put up lots of lovely messages about how we’ll do it all again when it’s safe to do so, and that had me snivelling all over again. So there you are: totes emosh. (Did I really just say that? This Lockdown must really be getting to me.)


SWB enjoys some lockdown luxury

No flipping way, I thought initially, if I’m ordering in, I want it to arrive hot and ready to eat. I don’t want to have to light my oven and read instructions and potentially wreck the expensive dinner before it’s even hit my plate. No, I thought: until it is deemed safe enough to venture out again, I will stay put, and enjoy a meal without the risk of butchering it.

For me, eating out is about the escapism. It is leaving behind the carnage of my house and obviating the need to clear the table of accumulated ephemera. It is the wine list and the joy of choosing a wine to suit each course, if one is making a night of it. It is sitting in the window of General Merchants and Shed and seeing friends walk by who may even pop in and say hello, or the munching of chicken wings on a cheeky mid-week outing to the Northern Lights.

It is not a van drawing up outside your house and handing you two brown paper bags at three in the afternoon. Except, last Friday it was, because this is lockdown and needs must and the thought of eating my own fecking food for another consecutive night had me sourer than a Free Presbyterian stumbling in on an episode of Normal People, and on a Sunday too.

Someone on social media drew my attention to Taste & Tour and happy days, they were delivering, and wasn’t it Indian themed, and I am partial to an Indian. But I am also (and here’s a surprise,) a very FUSSY connoisseur of Indian cuisine because when I lived on Reunion Island we had Indian landlords, who would occasionally drop us in fresh samosas and the odd goat curry. I have since found it hard to countenance the dishes to which one is often subjected here, with all the gloopy sauce and mounds of green pepper. Why do takeaways INSIST on shovelling green pepper into everything? Nigella Lawson says they are an abomination and I’m inclined to agree. Bitter and tasteless but much cheaper than their red counterparts, hence their popularity, I suppose.

Feck me but don’t I digress?

Back to Taste & Tour: flipping gorgeous it was. My fears were unfounded: there’s actually fuck all to do. It arrives, like any normal takeaway, but requires heating. So on went the oven and in went the starter and main. LSB did this, while I ran up the stairs and fired on nice top and skirt and some lipstick. ‘Aww would you look at you!’ said he when I reappeared, delighted to see me out of my rotten old active wear.

Up at the breakfast bar I perched and he opened the pouch of East India Gimlet and shook it over ice. Yes, these guys provide a cocktail in a pouch. To be fair, when I saw the menu I was like, chickpea starter, hmm, lamb biriyani ok so, but then my eyes lit upon the word COCKTAIL and I was all, Feck! Yes! Get it ordered! It was aromatic and zesty and given my swift descent into gentle inebriation, fairly lethal too. Down the hatch it went, sharpish.

‘Ding’ went the timer and the first course was ready. I’ll be honest. A few potatoes and some chickpeas done with tomato and spices. I was not initially enamoured. But, when decanted upon the plate with the yogurt dip, mint & coriander chutney and pomegranate seeds, it was sensational. And this is when it suddenly became a restaurant sort of experience because I became all poncy going ‘Do you SEE how the freshness mint brings out of the spiciness of the chilli? And the yogurt and the chickpeas? Have you EVER encountered such a perfect pulse?

‘I could eat ten of those’ declared Himself as he put down his fork. ‘Me too,’ I said, and then we discussed how, if we had meals like this more often we could go vegetarian. But DING went the timer again and out wafted the smell of slow cooked lamb which put paid to that notion for now. We heated the dahl in a pot for five minutes and the main was ready go.

Another revelation: never before have I heard my husband comment positively about a lentil. ‘My God,’ he said, with feeling. ‘I wouldn’t even KNOW that was a lentil.’ He’s been a long time agin lentils, has Himself, after a bad experience with a Dansak we once shared in the Bengal Brasserie, the consequences of which I shan’t labour here. This dahl, on the other hand, was rich and indulgent. And the lamb. I am still thinking about the lamb. Delicately spiced, velvety and succulent, it was a dream, and even more so when topped with raita and red onion.

I like cooking, but I’m too busy to be flavouring a raita with cumin and coriander, or footering about making a tamarind chutney. I’m not about to start cooking a dahl for five hours, or making a curry with a base of 25 ingredients. Nor am I a precision cook who ensures that that’s an interesting mix of tastes and textures on the plate. In short, I’m a mum who’s wearing about 4 different hats at the moment. So to have this beauty dropped on my doorstep was a Friday Delight indeed. We were too full to have dessert so waited until  on Saturday before sampling the chocolate brownies from Little Pink Kitchen. I never would have thought of adding cardamom to a brownie but it certainly lent it a Bombay twist, and along with a scoop of Al Gelato (which we’d ordered separately,) it was an unctuous, stunning combination.

All in all, it came to over fifty quid, at £23 a head plus extra because Himself had ordered 6 bottles of beer. This meant we had free delivery and for restaurant quality food I think it was worth it. Given the money we have saved by not going out and how we have all but eliminated food waste- I think this is an indulgence well worth forking out for.

(Taste & Tour are no longer offering this particular Friday night service, but keep an eye on their website for other exciting developments.) Meanwhile, keep supporting restaurant when you can, so they are still up and running when we are.


SWB is still ranting away over here

Readers, I tried. I really tried. I was going to be all shiny and positive this week because lovely neighbours have deposited books and buns and plants on my doorstep (sadly no dog’s pyjamas have arrived as yet) and I was trying to channel all my feel-good vibes and be thankful and full of gratitude. But after half an hour of home-schooling yesterday, this noble pursuit was dropped quicker than Prof Neil Ferguson’s trousers, so hey ho, you’re stuck with another rant. Bear with me.

Life under lockdown can be summarised as a series of interruptions, can’t it? Everything takes about three times as long, with treble the amount of aggravation. About a month ago, when I was still trying to be healthy and doing  ‘Yoga with Adrienne’, up popped one of the Master Class adverts featuring Joyce Carol Oates, who offered this nugget of wisdom: ‘You cannot write if you are constantly interrupted.’ Really Joyce? Fecking really? Is that true? Because I’ve become the next f**king Anne Tyler since my kids have been at home 24/7 and my husband’s backside is cemented to his swizzle chair at the computer upstairs.

I never get two minutes peace. The second I think I’m making some headway with a task, in wanders a child needing a drink or a snack or their ball retrieved from the top of the shed.

Of course, the real battle is with myself, trying not to look at the WhatApp on my phone which is going a dinger, and thinking that really the loo could do with a good scrub while I’m supposed to be writing or marking or helping a child do Tally Charts. ‘I HATE TALLY CHARTS,’ wailed the wee one on Wednesday. ‘You hate everything, unless it involves taking out paints and giving me work,’ I snapped, ‘so you may just get on with your sums.’

I really am not my best self at the moment.

Even my Mac conspires against me, as I can almost see my battery plummet by the second, while the poor fan chunters away like mad, seeing as it’s being used as the portal for my work, the home-schooling system and the eleventy billion other things I look up on a day to day basis. A quick look at my browser history shows that yesterday I googled ‘How to Draw a Baby Seal’ on You Tube, ‘How to Start Your own Wormery’ and in the middle of this I decided to order some dessert from Al Gelato (I told you I was easily distracted).  All this I did while waiting for the child to come back downstairs where she’d gone to get a red felt tip and got distracted.

(In fairness, the seal we drew together as the day’s ‘fun creative activity’ wasn’t half bad.)

I am, of course, not the only poor devil losing this battle while they try to work. A teacher colleague of mine was busy last week contending with spreadsheets and data while her sons pestered her with questions as diverse as ‘Does this picture look more like pâte or ham to you?’ for his French homework, and another wanted her to simplify quadratic equations with him.

I think my temper has been so frayed because I feel so guilty all the time; I can never concentrate at the task at hand because I feel I should be crossing something else off my ‘to do list.’ And meanwhile, the dishes! How they mount! And of course, we went and got the dog who likes to be made a fuss of so I can’t walk past her without giving her a hug, so she’s another great interruption, but a lovely one, it must be said.

But if you’re in the same boat as me here’s a tip; (and I’m sure you’re thinking to yourself, what? A tip from you, you crazed mad woman?) but on Tuesday I took my friend Gayle’s advice and I set an alarm and forced myself to get up at 6-45. I shook off the sleep and opened the laptop and did three finicky wee jobs that I couldn’t get near the day before. Boom, boom, boom, I had them all done in no time with no one asking any questions except for LSB who did enquire as to the state of my health, so uncharacteristic was this behaviour. I’ve never been a morning person but I can see now how people get up at 5-30am run round looking all smug and pleased with themselves. It’s a joy, really, to start the day with a win rather than a sense of dread, if like me, you usually feel defeated by 9-15.

Anyway, it’s Friday evening now and I took the day off home-schooling and my work and we walked the dog together and ordered in a feast from ‘Taste and Tour’ and I’m feeling very much better. I’m telling you, it’s cheaper than therapy, this writing lark. Have a lovely weekend, everyone.

(Only got to posting this on Saturday, due to constant interruptions).


SWB has a grumble- like all Normal People, right?

It’s bad to whinge, isn’t it? I mean am I a bad person? We are living up here on the hill, we can walk our dog in the meadow and we have the shops beside us where all the staff are lovely and kind and most people, (apart from one prick my husband encountered on Friday,) adhere to the social distancing rules and don’t ram their trollies up your arse while you’re checking the dates on your M&S rotisserie style chicken.

But it’s me, and I am prone to a good old moan so off I’ll go, and don’t go judging me. I’m just f**ked off at this stage. Earlier I reached over LSB for my coffee and he said ‘Ouch! You just after knee-ing me there!’

‘Sorry,’ I said. ‘I didn’t mean to.’ ‘Or DID you? said the Older Child, her eyebrow raised knowingly. ‘I think perhaps you did.’

Perceptive wee article she is too because it wasn’t long after he’d cleaned the living room and said, ‘Now I don’t want to blow my own trumpet (well you may as well as I won’t be blowing it for you) but haven’t I done a great job in there? You may want to take a look.’

What is it with men? Every flipping day I do the dishes and the laundry and hang it out and take it in and cook the dinners and I don’t go around saying: ‘Oh, wasn’t that a great load of whites I just flung on there at 30 degrees?’ or ‘Check out these pots? Aren’t they positively gleaming after that good scrub with my responsibly sourced bamboo scrubber?’

I’ve started now, so I might as well tell you what else is annoying me.

I’m pissed off with people making sourdough and posting it on social media because its’s just rude when they can’t have me round and pour me a glass of Valpolicella Ripasso and serve it up to me with a hunk of manchego and homemade chilli jam. (Yes Louise, I’m talking about you, so I am.)

I’m fed up with the Zoom and Whatsapp calls that falter when the connection’s bad and you spend half your time saying ‘Oh No! You first! No, you go on sure! You first! Didn’t quite catch that!’ Then you get chatting about something interesting and in wanders the dog. ‘Oh and here’s the dog! Isn’t she lovely!’ ‘Oooh yes!’ ‘And here’s my child! And there’s your child!’ ‘Hello, Hello!’ Cue inane waving, when frankly, lovely as your children and your friend’s children may be, you want to have a proper, no holds-barred chat that is MOST definitely not for the tender age of the under eights.

I’m also fed up meeting people in the street or over the wall and saying a million time to the kids ‘2 metres! 2 metres! Keep well back there!’ which makes any class of normal conversation impossible.

I’m narked, that instead of sitting across from my mates, all tarted up and having a grand catch up over coconut margaritas in La Taqueria, that we are waving at each other across the street, wearing jogging bottoms and clutching small plastic bags of recently excreted shit, still warm from dog’s large intestines.

I’m agitated because I naively thought, that through all of this that I might get my house in order and do a spot of decluttering, but no, sure there’s no charity shops or recycling centres open so we’re still wading through mounds of shite and sure, by way of getting a dog we just brought at whole lot more truck in.

There’s no end to dog paraphernalia, I’m finding. Rugs and coats and leads and toys and food and treats. If you land yourself with a greyhound, you should know that they are prone to a chill, so we had to get a wee coat for Tilly. We ordered her pyjamas too, much to the Small Child’s delight, but they haven’t arrived yet, much to everyone’s disappointment.

And I’m really quite distraught, that Normal People is over on BBC 3. It was so heartrendingly, beautifully shot and so true- there’s a scene with Connell in episode 10 and if he doesn’t get Oscar nominated it’ll be a crime against acting. I enjoyed the book but I didn’t LOVE it- I got frustrated with the characters, I kept thinking, just fecking GET TOGETHER and be done with it. But in the series the fragility of the pair of them was so much more apparent and convincing to me. One could see how easy it was to be misunderstood, vulnerable and insecure as a young adult, perhaps with a distorted perception of self.  I worry that with all the media hype surrounding the sex scenes (and perhaps I’m underestimating teenagers here) that the point may be a bit lost on them- but to me it summed up so much of what it is to be young and confused; feeling lost and listless at university, especially as an arts student. Navigating new friendships and articulating what it was you wanted when you didn’t know yourself: that was hard, wasn’t it? (I feel, for the benefit of The Mothership here that I have to add that there was never anything in the way of bondage in my student romances, least she splutters out her tea and scalds herself.)

LSB said he was bereft when it was over, (‘Normal People’ that is, not his time at Queen’s after which ended he felt nowt but relief) and I feel the same- I haven’t seen anything that has affected me quite so much in a while. There was just such incredible tenderness in it, and at the moment, when everything is so emotionally charged-it had me in bits.

So there you are- just something else to be raging about. And it’s Sunday night, so another week of home-schooling and cramming in your own work and housework and feeling rubbish at every last bit of it. At least the dog is happy, even without her wee pyjamas, so that’s something.