Monthly Archives:

February 2021


SWB has her ‘Wednesday Whinge’

When the sun emerged on Sunday, I felt a rush of joy and optimism, so intense that it was tangible. After the drenching the ground got on Saturday, all seemed vibrant and fecund, the snowdrops a portent of better times ahead. I wanted to savour these intoxicating feelings of hope and renewal, after so much heaviness for so long.

Two winters ago now, LSB took me to see Liam Gallagher in Dublin. I was ambivalent about this trip: I loved Oasis, enough to endure a bus journey from the Europa Bus Station all the way to Knebworth in 1996, but just to see Liam on his own, pontificating about shite? I wasn’t sure. But now, can you imagine the luxury of being able to say, ‘I’m not sure if I can be bothered spending the night in a classy hotel on the banks of the Liffey with just my husband, dinner and cocktails and a gig thrown in, to boot. Oh, those halcyon days, when you could sleep on, undisturbed by cats wandering in and sitting on your bladder at 3:30am because they think you ought to fetch them a night time snack.

I digress. What I started to say, was that Liam Gallagher wouldn’t usually be top of the list of those doling out advice, but he was giving it stacks because the lunatics in the pit were lighting massive flares and he clearly didn’t want to be remembered as the rock and roll star whose audience burnt to death in 2019.

Well, today it’s me, not a Gallagher brother who is giving the advice, because I’m fed up with dickheads doing whatever they like, which is why, (and I’m sure I’ll have a rake of anti-vaxxers and tin-foil hat wearers on to me now) the lockdown isn’t working as it should.

I was in Sainsbury’s on Monday, and in trots a man, nice shirt and jumper and all on him, and the security chap says: ‘Would you wear a mask please?’ and he says haughtily, ‘I’d rather not,’ and ploughs on in. He had no more notion of social distancing, leaning over an old woman as she chose her carrots, and later on hovering, like a seagull outside a chip shop, at the reduced section. Now, I’ve an acerbic tongue on me, (hence the moniker SWB), and I was tempted to tell him what I made of his attitude, but I desisted as I didn’t want to face a barrage of invective.

There was another clown in M&S with no mask on her either, chatting away on her phone with great animation. She was taking her time, pawing over the ‘Dine-In’ selection, lifting up item after item and setting them back, like a one-woman infection machine.

The Mothership assures me that it’s as bad in Bangor and that it’s as well she’s ‘light on her feet’ and can skip sideways when other shoppers crowd her. So that’s the shops covered- no one doing what they’re told.

My greys are becoming increasingly visible, and a FB friend happened to remark that her hairdresser is doing ‘homers’. ‘She’s never been busier!’ she crowed. So, opinions on this please. Salons aren’t allowed to open to the public, yet some hairdressers are merrily going into several private houses a day? One can only hope that they are taking the necessary precautions, but we can’t be sure. Call me slovenly or drab or but I don’t give two shits whether my highlights are overdue: I’m 41 and I’m stressed to fuck, and if it shows in my hair, then so be it.

Even if the Executive would do a TV ad on how to effectively wear a mask, since this seems to be beyond the average person’s abilities too. Everywhere I look, people are just covering their mouths and not their noses. I totally get it, we aren’t familiar with masks so they feel uncomfortable, and thus the temptation is to fiddle. But by touching the front of the mask where the viral load has gathered, it transfers it to your fingers, which inevitably comes into contact with your face and eyes. People clearly aren’t ‘staying home’ so at least if we were more adept at wearing a mask it would be a help.

My point is this: it feels like finally we can begin to look forward to an end to lockdown. But it hasn’t happened yet. As a teacher I might be asked any day now to go back into schools and as I’m not vaccinated, I don’t feel safe to do so. The combination of some good weather, lockdown fatigue and the inconsistencies of the government’s approach have, IMHO, made us feel as though we can relax the rules. I just wonder if I’m alone in thinking that it’s too soon to get ‘carried away with ourselves’ as The Mothership would say.




SWB is back to form

I put up an Instagram post on Wednesday and people began to wonder if my account had been hacked. It was a picture of a miniature daffodil which had bloomed in my flowerbed. Oh, full of joy was I, happening upon this tentative show of spring. I proceeded to document it, embellished with happy little emojis and positive affirmations.  My mood was buoyant for I had also completed a five km run in the park without needing a defibrillator. I had bumped into a friend and oh, the delight of spontaneously meeting someone outdoors, where you can stand and chat, unlike last week- when I spied a pal in the booze section of Sainsbury’s. No sooner had we enquired after each other’s health and considered the merits of pairing a German Riesling with the M&S takeaway box to celebrate Chinese New Year, than anxious shoppers were giving us the evil eye and we had to shuffle on, in our sad, company deprived way.

So back to Ash Wednesday. Feeling uncharacteristically chirpy, I popped on the radio and embarked upon a cook-a-thon, the children outside playing happily and me, stirring away happily with three meals on the go: a bolognese,  a pot of vegetable broth and Chinese braised beef and ginger in the slow cooker. Having raided the reduced section, I had picked up a bag of carrots for 9p and a selection of mushrooms. I was thus chopping and slicing, determined to boost all our immune systems and eke out the tiny packet of organic mince I’d bought. I also decided to roast myself a tray of vegetables- aubergine, cauliflower and tomatoes, to which I added chilli oil, lemon and lots of black pepper. The rest of the family aren’t mad for this so I thought to myself, I shall do my bit, and compensate for their unwillingness to embrace a plant-based diet. Into the oven it went. Oh, very virtuous I felt.

My friend Rhaiza lived in Dubai years ago and had the most horrible time. Her partner was always working so she was was often home alone, plus it was tricky to get hold of a glass of wine and she didn’t find the people overly friendly. The person to whom she most regularly spoke was the man on the beach who offered camel rides. She was very fond of the camels, even after one of the fuckers bit her thumb and she ended up in the A&E requiring a tetanus jab and two stitches.  Rhaiza is an amazing cook, but a funny thing happened to her in Dubai, because everything she made tasted rotten. She couldn’t understand it, and concluded, eventually, that her misery seeped its way into the food; her frustration and melancholy leeching into her soups and stews. ‘I even cocked up a salad once,’ she told me at the time. ‘Like how is that even bloody possible, I ask you?’

With this reasoning in mind, the meals I prepared on Wednesday ought to have been sumptuous, given my ebullience.  Alas, it was not.  The soup was dismal and bland: I had added two packs of soup mix and hadn’t adjusted the stock accordingly, so it was basically just mushy veg swimming in liquid the colour of sewer water. I tried adding an extra spoonful of Marigold Bouillion, but it still tasted rubbish. At least it was edible though, unlike the beef stew. LSB may be taking to a veggie diet yet after almost choking on a piece of meat so tough it lodged in his gullet and I had to thump his back. Six and a half hours that beef shin simmered in the slower cooker, and it still resembled boot leather. And my vegetables. Heavens. My friend Aisling has become the most remarkable cook. Gone are the days when she adds lemongrass to Shepherd’s Pie and dished out meatballs still raw in the middle to guests.  Her roasted veg, with tiny oozing balls of mozzarella, would rival anything a Sicilian Nonna would set down to you, in a bowl of steaming linguine. They are unctuous: a thing of wonder. Although I tried to emulate her recipe, (and fuck me, but how hard can a tray of roasted veg be?) it just wasn’t nice. And it made my stomach crampy. And windy.

And that’s only the start. At considerable expense we had an old rug dry cleaned and put it back down in our front room to make it cosy and inviting. The man returned it, all fragrant and lovely. The children rolled around on it in glee- how much nicer than cold floor boards, (especially for launching themselves off the furniture onto. ) Approximately 3 hours later and the  cat, (the fat one who moved in,) thinks to himself, ‘How lovely! A new toilet!’ and takes a large shit in the middle of it. That was some job, I can tell you- sorting that mess out. After setting to with scrubber, I went to make a nice cup of tea and opened the dishwasher for a clean cup. Everything was all wet which is a sign, apparently, of the filter not working. Down came LSB  and started buggering about with it, opening up the innards and taking a look. YUCK. The filter was definitely not well of itself. On went the gloves and more cleaning ensued. All around me was shit and detritus.

And this is us, apparently off the drink for Lent by THURSDAY evening I was already bemoaning my decision and all my triggers were on red alert.

So, just to fill you in, my serenity was short-lived and gloominess has once again descended. SWB is back and sourer than ever. If you have given something up and haven’t a mission of sticking to it- no judgement here, that’s all I’m saying.

*Image shamelessly stolen from Waterford Whispers. It’s hilarious, and sadly very accurate.


SWB looks for the Sunny Side

Hear me out here folks, but we’ve almost reached half-term and although we aren’t going on any of our usual jaunts, I still feel more than a frisson of excitement. The girls each have a wicker basket which slots neatly into a dresser in the kitchen. I am making sure that come Friday afternoon, every single book and pencil and ruler are fired into the receptacles provided where they shall remain for a solid week. I do not want to hear about seven times-tables or think how to punctuate a sentence correctly. I am weary of my own voice, droning on ad infinitum, boring myself rigid.

I want to make tacos at lunchtime without checking what shite they have posted on Seesaw without showing me first. I want to watch two episodes of Gilmore Girls instead of one so they won’t be grumpy, tired little feckers in the morning. I want to take my laptop upstairs to write without a child bleating that they need to read a story on ‘Bug Club’. Next week, I am fervently hoping for more sun so I can open the door and boot them out to play before they have the chance to annoy me.

The odd thing is, and I wonder if anyone else has experienced this phenomenon, but I actually feel a sense of relief not to be going anywhere. Has Stockholm syndrome set in? I’m not even talking Covid here, although I’ll never feel the same about a sauna again. I’m just reflecting on other irksome things that happen on holiday; like having to queue for breakfast, then being shown to a mediocre table and horror of horrors, for a family with a wailing toddler to plonk down beside us. My children can be very irritating, but at least they’re past that stage. I want to drink my own, good quality coffee that LSB makes in the morning, instead of the piss they serve in hotel restaurants. Can anyone enlighten me how they actually MAKE the coffee in hotels? Is it just one great big vat with some poor scullion stirring in tablespoonfuls of Maxwell House? It’s always weak, watery and lukewarm.  And, top of my list of things to be grateful for, is not having to set an alarm, to leave the cosy hotel bed, to get into the flipping swimming pool at 8am. Yes, I know no one is holding a knife to my throat to do this, but it’s either that or venture in later to be bashed and splashed by obnoxious little bastards flailing those great foam noodles in your face.

I don’t want to have to drop my pets off the ‘pet resort’ where the proprietors demonstrate all the warmth and congeniality of my grumpy tortoiseshell when I sit on her by accident.

I’m relieved not to have to pack, as inevitably I forget things and then have send LSB beetling off to pick up toothpaste/moisturiser/hairbrushes. Who I am trying to kid? Let’s not forget the warm coat I had to buy in Limavady when I went up with only a jumper on me last October. And my worst faux pas, when I said I’d take care of the packing for a trip to Kenya in 2010 and left all of LSB’s boxers sitting on the kitchen table. He had to go looking in a   department store in Nakuro, and they only did a range of Y-fronts in bold, primary colours which weren’t particularly fetching.

I am seeing a silver lining here, and frankly, I’m as surprised about that as you are. By nature, I am keen on a gallivant, but right now, not so much. With everything closed this half-term our options are greatly limited and I’m thinking ‘Thank f**k for that’. It means not having to traipse the children to the Folk and Transport Museum for an edifying experience. It means not having to squeeze my thighs into a pair of tailored trousers for an evening out. It means having a bona-fide reason NOT to meet that person you always say you’ll hook up with for drinks when secretly, you’d rather remove your liver with a butter knife than enduring an evening while they talk about their child’s lactose intolerance. You just can’t, Boris says no, simple as that. Hallelujah- first time I’ve been grateful to that gobshite for anything.

Today, even though the frost sat three inches thick on my windscreen, I didn’t mind because I didn’t have to go anywhere. As the Older Child read ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ the sunlight streamed through the window illuminating her in a pool of golden light. On hearing how rubbish I felt last week,  a neighbour rang the bell and handed me instructions, on how to make fat balls for the birds, along with lard, birdseed and cord. There are signs of light and life, and if we just get a week of respite, then we’ll be able appreciate them, wherever we are.





For the effing millionth time, SWB on homeschool

I did an interview with The Newsletter this week on the topic of home-schooling- here is the unedited sweary version for SWB readers…

Anyone know the Crowded House ‘Four Seasons in One Day?’ Well, that’s my life at the moment, except replace four with eight, or maybe ten. I ricochet back and forth between feelings of exhaustion and ennui, gratitude and griping, busyness and boredom.

The most stressful element of my day is definitely the home-schooling. I quickly get frustrated when I see that my children’s academic progress has gone into a swift decline since lockdown began. When I look at what they are producing presently I turn into a raging harpy. ‘Have you ever HEARD of a full stop?’ ‘Yes, fifty-five take away fourteen IS  forty-one but since that is a PLUS sign the answer is sixty nine.’ FFS. There is much sniping and sighing when I have the audacity to point out these mistakes. When I asked  my nine year old to give me a couple of adjectives last week, the little s**t replied: ‘Mean and nasty’. How very encouraging.

I dug out some of their school-books from previous years, and there was yet more evidence that my home-schooling techniques are rubbish. A quick flick through and I saw  positive comments and gold stars- ‘Go you! Amazing! Wow!’ What is abundantly clear is that that they lack both the inclination and ability to concentrate at home with me.

Last lockdown LSB used to blithely say ‘Send them up to me!’ when he heard raised voices below. Since then, he has installed two large monitors on the desk where they used to sit. ‘Not much room for them here,’ he says. Since January he has a significantly larger number of meetings for which is attendance is, apparently, mandatory. Obviously, I am not remotely suspicious about any of this. Useless f**ker.

I did not choose to join a religious order because I didn’t fancy a life of servitude, but this appears to have happened anyway. I am now bringer of breakfasts, server of snacks and deliverer of the Key Stage Two Curriculum. Sometimes I try to do put the laundry on while they ‘work’ but have discovered that this is a complete waste of time.

Does anyone else feel as though their brain is being hacked in half with a blunt machete? The See-Saw app is fiddly AF, so if I’m not at their shoulder to oversee what they’re doing they merrily press ‘send’ and send their teacher a load of rubbish. Some of the work coming home is new, and while teachers patiently and with enormous effort, post explanatory videos, I still need to sit with them as they do most of the activities.

Afternoons are spent with my trying to avoid a visit to A&E as they treat our living room furniture like a jungle gym, vaulting over tables and hanging off the banisters. Last Lockdown LSB had to screw the leg back into the sofa and so far this time we have bid farewell to a kitchen chair. Sometimes I feel like a life in a convent would be preferable; at least it would be quiet.

And yet, when I am not strung out multi-tasking, I often feel a sense of relief. Latterly when I was teaching in a local grammar school, I was aware of the pressure which staff and pupils alike where struggling under. It was an absolute f**king melt. This was the result of not knowing whether exams were taking place or not, and students were doing their nut about what they had missed. Tensions ran exceptionally high. Peter Weir is as qualified in the role as Educational Minister as Trump was in the role as President. Not a notion does he have, and running his own party’s agenda to boot.

So are there any upsides? Well yes, of course. When it snowed this time two weeks ago it seemed like a gift- we took the girls to the local meadow with their sleds and played for hours. I didn’t have to navigate icy roads and sit at home wondering whether the school would be open or not.

There is also the sense of celebration when the weekend arrives. Late afternoon I escape, lighting a candle and doing some yoga. Even if it’s just a fifteen-minute practice I feel like it’s something ‘just for me.’ Also, just for me, is the can of wine which I crack open every evening at seven. These are tough times, and if you can’t savour how the flavours of elderberry and green apple marry together in a sparkling white now, then when can you?

I realize, that although life is strange and frightening, that I am lucky. Annoying as they can be, I have a family and a menagerie of pets to keep me busy and (sometimes) amused. Being on my own would be infinitely worse, so when I feel myself close to losing my temper I try to remember this. I try. People I try. But let’s face it, I often fail miserably, please tell me you do too. Solidarity is key for my sanity.





SWB on Groundhog Day and Recycling…

So today is Groundhog day and you may be forgiven for thinking, really, isn’t that every day at the minute? Or perhaps you’ve been reading my posts on Instagram and you’re thinking to yourself, fecking groundhog day again, she’s still on about the bloody environment, for the twentieth time this month.  You see, over January I came over all David Attenborourgh and did a series of posts about reducing waste. They were supposed to be daily updates, but I lacked the fortitude.  Hell, that was one LONG, torturous month, wasn’t it? But in addition to my being tired and fed up, I didn’t want to annoy people by posting every single day. Life, you may have noticed, is a bit on the shite side right now, and you are probably already pulled in seven different directions, and having someone harangue you about saving up your crisp packets might just have you on sipping gin with your toast of a morning. When stretched to your absolute limit, the thought of washing out period pants might just be beyond you. And that’s ok. As the statistics show, a million people making a few changes is better than a few doing everything.

However, I thought the posts might be useful for those of you who may have some extra  time or if your change in circumstances allows more flexibility. Last spring for example, I sent LSB off to B&Q to buy a water butt. We’d thought of getting one before but hadn’t bothered, then a neighbour mentioned how easy it was to get one and install it one. Since we had such a dry spell during the lockdown we made it a priority. Had we not both been at home so much, I know we still wouldn’t have one.

It was the same with the period pants – it was easier for me to make the switch to using them all the time because I wasn’t in school. No one wants to test drive bamboo pads when you’re standing in front of a class of year 12 boys and discover you have blood trickling down your leg. (Might I add here that this is MIGHTY UNLIKELY, because you’ll be changing them just like any other sanitary wear, as your flow dictates. The Mothership though, if she’s reading this, may be quite likely to have a mini-stroke: ‘Is there any NEED, Helen,’ she will say.)

Do you know what I really want though? For all this bullshit about periods being mystifying or embarrassing or dirty to be quashed underfoot. That is the DREAM.

But today, I am talking cardboard, or as those media types are now referring to it as: ‘beige gold’. We have an actual global shortage of paper, because we’ve all been buying our booze and frankly, everything else online. We won’t have any fecking forests left at this rate. I also believe I’m married to the main culprit, because LSB, despite my protestations, is never done ordering random shit off the internet. Often from Amazon too, and you know how much I fecking hate Amazon. I mean surely, SURELY, some clever people could work out how to reduce the packaging they use or have a returns policy organised with Prime? Those vans are never off our streets, so would it be too much of a stretch to hand them back some of the boxes and say, ‘give that another whirl?’ It would be easier than say, chopping down swathes of the Amazon? Just a thought. A friend ordered a pair of knitting needles, and not only were they delivered in a box large enough to fit one of my children in, but they were so wrapped in yards of paper. ‘What sort of eejit did that?’ I wondered to myself.  Probably some poor fecker who’s been working an 18 hour shift in a warehouse and pouring every remaining ounce of their energy  into maintaining the will to live, I imagine.

Anyway, rant over. Hopefully you don’t all think of me as a sanctimonious git running round in a sack cloth (I know it’s nearly Lent so I now have the image of John the Baptist in my head.) These are strange and frightening times but some of the comfort I glean is from studies which show a reduction in carbon emissions and the fact we can hear the birds better as their wee cheeps and caws aren’t drowned out by all the traffic. If we can at least keep up some of our efforts, then a tiny bit of good may be salvaged from this period of gloom.