SWB on coping strategies

Newsflash- apparently, we’re all drinking too much over lockdown. I’m sorry, but this is the BBC actually calling this is NEWS? The real news would be if we were managing not to drink our way through this global cluster-fuck.

As I may have shared with you, I tried to give up drink this Lent, thinking that perhaps with some divine intervention I could abstain. Four days I lasted. Four days. I don’t know why I even attempted it to be honest- it was just Dry January all over again, which turned out to be well doused. Now is not the time for denial, when so much is off limits. But what I do subscribe to now, is careful policing of self and trying to be a bit more creative than just having a drink to dull the monotony/pulverised nerves/feeling of terminal gloom.

At least I’m not alone. Yesterday I had to use all my Tetris skills trying to squeeze three wine bottles into the bins at Tesco. Obviously, in the absence of the recycling centres being open, people are availing of whatever options are available, but I can conclude that Easter was celebrated in style in the Rosetta area of Belfast.

Like many others, this feeling of  wanting to drinking myself into a coma usually occurs at ‘witching hour’, around six o’clock.  Typically, I am trying to make the dinner, and children have buggered off up the stairs leaving me with three pots on the go; batting away opportunist pets who are trying to leap up on the counter for a piece of chicken; and a table full of all the shite of the day which needs cleared before we eat. Oblivious, or perhaps in a deliberate attempt to avoid helping, the girls are playing Minecraft instead of doing something edifying like reading. My reflex action is just to reach into the fridge or ferret about in the cupboards if I’ve nothing chilled. In cases like this though, I shouldn’t take it out on my liver. The sensible option is to shout for the wee feckers to come down and help,  The answer, I tell myself, is not in the bottom of a glass of sauvignon blanc, it is in creating a harmonious space to inhabit, instead of letting my rage grow and harden into a hernia.

Of course, if you absolutely can’t resist, and a bottle of Marlborough is shouting in your ear VERY loudly that it needs cracked upon and drunk, then have a glass, just stop early. Starting to hammer it into you at six and then sipping away until ten is a disaster, and yet, so easily done. I might have a glass while I cook, then one with dinner. I then say to myself, ‘FFS it’s a weeknight,’ and switch to tonic with a good squeeze of lime, which is fragrant and zesty and quenches your thirst. I know, I didn’t think it would satisfy me in the least, but it seems to.

A friend of mine, when she was pregnant, used to light a scented candle to quell her urge to drink. This, she said,  marked the beginning of her evening and her chance to relax. I can almost see you roll your eyes like Sister Michael in Derry Girls at this. But it’s not about the candle, is it? It’s the transition from a daytime of obligation to your chill out time. So it could be a bath with some Neal’s Yard Frankincense oil, or a stroll at dusk with a friend. Oxygen is underrated, and so is spending time with buddies who make your heart turn little joyful leaps. A friend shared a quote on Facebook which resonated with me. It read: ‘I am sick spending all my time with people who have either been, or came out of my vagina.’ Well, both my babies were popped out the sunroof, but regardless, you get the point I’m sure. We NEED to see other people: it’s not just pleasant, it’s a necessity.

There are other unexpected benefits to not drinking so much. LSB can testify to this after watching ‘Line of Duty’ the other night while I sipped a tonic and lime beside him. Thrilled was he, to be able to watch in peace, with only half the number of interruptions. Usually I pester him relentlessly: ‘Who’s he again?’ ‘What just happened there?’ ‘How the hell am I supposed to remember what happened in Series One? That was a lifetime ago, when the world was normal.’ Reassure me, is anyone else baffled by the show, yet compelled to watch, if only to shout out ‘There’s the garage off the Castlereagh Road! Remember we bought donuts there once?’ Or, ‘I know that woman! She works in Buttercups down the road!’ Highly excitable do I get, even when I don’t have the first notion who’s murdering who and why?.

I’m going back to work on Monday, so it is very possible that I won’t take any of own advice at all, and go a bit Father Jack. LSB may have to wrestle the gin from my hands as I attempt to adjust to working life again. So send me your tips, your encouragement, your life-hacks. I’m all ears folks.

SWB on emerging from lockdown fashion

I have a coat (and that’s it in the photo).

It is not pleasing on the eye. It was never meant to be a statement coat, but at least one I could wear in public without resembling one of the grotesques that used to feature in ‘The League of Gentlemen.’ Could anyone ever sit through a whole episode of that show by the way? I had a flatmate who used to LOVE it, but it always made me feel a queasy because they were so rotten (both inside and out). Shortly after acquiring this over-garment, (£40 down from £80 in the Benetton winter sale) I lost the belt which cinched it in around the waist, lending it some form of definition. Its troubles increased when I wore it to the dump, (or ‘local recycling centre’) and clarried white paint all down the front, which despite many attempts, I have never successfully removed. These remain in grey, washed out smudges. I am a small person, and wearing this coat, which reaches my mid-calves, creates the appearance of a Womble. Given that these days I often take a litter picker when out walking, I would be much better suited to Wimbledon Common than the Upper Ormeau.

But I love this coat, and I suspect that I am going to love it a lot more in the coming few days, when I shall wear it out, not just when walking to dog, but to friends’ gardens where we will partake in libations and revel in the joy of company, sitting together, and not just passing each other in the road or in the school carpark, trying to exchange niceties when we can see and hear fuck all under the masks.

I may take Jess Carter Morley’s advice in her weekend Guardian column and wear something that smacks of frivolity underneath the coat- I still have two skirts from Christmas which have never seen the light of day, but I suspect that April isn’t really the season for a pale pink sequinned clingy number that LSB ordered from the Savida range in Dunnes. He’s a wild one for the skirts, is LSB, but tragically he has underestimated the collateral damage that lockdown has done to my arse: it could be a while yet before I wrestle my upper thighs into anything remotely structured.

What I will do though, for any frivolity in the coming weeks, is pop on a maxi wrap dress I got from Silk Fred, with a cardigan and my Ug boots, and in case it turns Baltic again (because let’s face it, it could), I will have the white woollen hat that Santa bought my child from Oxfam and that I have since pilfered. With its multi-coloured fluffy bobble, it brings me cheer- and at the moment, sure you have to take the cheer where you can get it.

Ultimately, who cares. I am just bursting with excitement at the thought of a proper chat. Earlier today I was returning from a jog when I bumped into a crowd of friends at Ormeau Parklet. Well, the giddiness of me was nothing ordinary. There was a suggestion that I’d been on the hard liquor with my Honey Cheerios, which of course I hadn’t because now that the children are back at school, I don’t have to go to those lengths to make it to 10am. Mid chat, I walked backwards into one of the seat and fell with clatter and a deluge of expletives, much to the amusement of a good-looking young couple with their baby in one of those buggies that costs the same amount as my first car. But hey, at least when we let ourselves down a bucketful these days, we have an excuse and don’t have to shrug and say: ‘I don’t get out much.’ We don’t, we haven’t, and we need a bit of a craic. My pals may have to power-hose me off their patios- such will be my reluctance to shift. I suppose though, that’s one of the benefits of a coat which doubles as a duvet. They can just dander off to bed and leave me on the garden seat, if they don’t want to resort to force. Jeepers, they’ll be saying- there’s tankers in the Suez that are easier to shift than that one. Happy holidays y’all.