Monthly Archives:

July 2021


How to remember stuff- SWB gives advice

Now I don’t know about you, but my memory is kaput, my ability to recollect fuzzier than the morning after a rake of raki* shots on my Greek holiday with the girls in 2000.


So I have advice for you- very simple but it works. WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. Do not even CONSIDER relying on your memory at this stage in the game, as this is pointless. You will forget things and be cross with yourself or worry that the heat and alcohol abuse during lockdown has brought on a mini stroke. Make a spread sheet; journal, get your fridge magnet thingy up to date. You need it.


What a couple of years we have all had. What a lot of new and rapidly changing information to process. What a lot of life changes, usually in the form of getting a dog, to be fair, but this  sure does impact upon family life, having to feed and walk the fecker, for starters. (The Mothership is going to be on the blower within seconds of reading this. Don’t DARE be calling Tilly a fecker. Tilly is MARVELLOUS.’)


My inability to retain information is at an all time high today. The children are at tennis camp until half 12: so far so good. But the Small one has then been invited to a birthday party, about which she is almost LEVITATING with excitement. ‘I LOVE seeing my friends,’ she said earlier. ‘And the thing about the girls in my class is that they aren’t squealers. Squealers hurt my head.’ Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree there, does it?


Meanwhile, other friends have kindly offered to take the Older Child to the park, at approximately the same time, so I have to try not to forget about that. I want to go to the running club later, but that coincides with when the aforementioned child who has football training. I thought all that football was over for the summer, but apparently not. Who knew? Definitely not me. ‘Sure it’s grand,’ I said to LSB, ‘I can do the toing and froing- It’s not like I’ve anything on later.’


‘Yes you do, you have your class’, he said, looking at me like I’d just developed early on-set dementia. ‘Remember the writing course, the one you started yesterday?


And I had, of course, completely forgotten. It’s the week of the John Hewitt Festival and I signed up for three sessions on memoir writing. I did the first of these yesterday afternoon, and fabulous it was too. I was all, ‘Best thing I’ve done in ages! I’m so motivated! Go me!’ And within 24 hours I’d completely erased it from my memory. This sort of thing worries me, and I didn’t even drink last night.


But listen, here’s the craic. As humans we are essentially creatures of habit, and our routine has been shot to fuck. Holidays are trying for parents, when the kids are all doing things at different times, in different places. It looks dreadful when you leave your children standing for half an hour in the blazing sun because you thought their camp finished at 2pm when it turns out to be half one. Hell though, these things happen. Family friends of ours once zoomed off merrily from a service station in France, before a child chirped up ‘Where’s Frank?’ when she noticed that the youngest was missing. Frank, bless him, was standing at the petrol pumps, having a wee cry to himself. I love that story: it always makes me feel better about my parenting.


Let’s not forget too that we had a heatwave, which addled my already frazzled brain. ‘Helen’s on strike,’ LSB reported to the Mothership, as the children’s recounted all the different takeaway meals we’d eaten last week. Well, I’m sorry, but if they weren’t all such a bunch of fussy feckers it might have been easier to rustle something up, but I was too melted, both figuratively and literally to make this happen.


The point of this post? Write it all down. Make a note of start times and end times and remove ambiguity from your life. You need to harness any energy you have in this weather and not be frittering away your limited brain capacity with uncertainties.


*raki is like tequila but without the finesse.


SWB farms out the kids

Well guys and gals and all those in-between, how the hell are you? I myself am splendid, and yes, you read that right. You know the craic with me: I’m usually a whingy auld bastard, and if there’s nothing to whinge about (to be fair, there usually is) I’ll think long enough until I come up with something. But this summer, bar the HELL that was when the Older Child had to isolate for the first few days, has been glorious.


In advance of the holidays, and with self-preservation at the forefront of my mind, I organised to wheel the kids into different summer schemes for most of the break. Yes, this is an extravagance, but booking yourself into the The Priory isn’t easy on the pocket either, and there’s where I’d have been headed if I hadn’t taken matters in hand. I thus consider the expenditure to be worth it, and I’m enjoying something of a holiday too and I’m not even cracking open the gin at 5pm every night either.


Beside myself with delight I have been, pretending I’m abroad. Last week saw me sauntering around Holywood while they’ve been at Tennis and Sign, and this week I’m in Ballynahinch while they hang out at a farm at Kinesdale Donkeys. The downside of this is the sustained campaign to adopt a couple of donkeys, a plan which the Small Child has all worked out. She is invoking me to make a proposition to the man who owns the field behind us, so we could buy part of it and build a paddock. She almost has me convinced, though LSB may be seeking a decree nisi at this rate.


It’s not a bad way to spend a mornings, pottering about wee towns that you normally just speed past. Last week I dandered around Seapark with the dog, ogling the houses on the seafront. (Jeez Louise, said LSB, and I thought YOU were posh.) I stood peering at the palatial residences, trying to work out which one belonged to Van Morrison, so I could lob so rotten fruit over the fence, because he’s such a cantankerous auld fucker.


Seriously though, seeing the cloudless skies and feeling an actual WARM wind kiss my shoulders, made me feel as though I was in Spain, and I felt that same frisson of excitement I get when I go step off a plane. That almost never happens here, and it was bliss.


This week I have discovered Blue Cedar Landscapes which is a garden centre slash coffee shop (could it BE* any more Presbyterian?) and I’ve been sipping lattes and eating raspberry and almond slices, while trying to motivate myself to write. It’s a grand place to install yourself for a couple of hours, because there’s no way I’m motoring back and forth everyday to Belfast. What on earth would that do to my environmental credentials?  They are ever so nice here, and fill up my keep cup and refill my water, giving me a princely 10p discount for bringing my own container.


I’ve sought the shade and sat at a little wooden table, looking out at their terracotta planters of roses and clematis. A pot of crimson or cerise begonias adorns every table, and the same little robin has flitted over every day to see me. He’s the punk rocker of robins, with a few fluffy feathers which stick out on his back, reminiscent of Hardy’s thrush with his ‘blast be-ruffled plume.’ It’s been every so serene, even if you’re beside a crowd of auld dolls lamenting that Boris is ‘off his trolley’, (were truer words ever uttered?) and frazzled mums with hot and bothered toddlers. It’s always better when the children aren’t your own.


The best bit however, is that you can’t mop floors or fill the dishwasher when you’re out of the house. You can however, put a wash on before you leave, then text your husband and remind him to hang it out. He loves it when he sees my face pop up on his wee screen with such requests.


So there you have it folks. A rant free post. Stranger things have happened, (and fuck me they are, all around us with this freak weather we’re having.) But shoosh- I’m making hay right now, and and for a little bit, I’m going to enjoy it.


* Note the Chandler Bing intonation.







SWB on Staycationing

Once I went backpacking round Vietnam on my own for a fortnight and went merrily abseiling down waterfalls in Dalat, a lush and verdant resort in the central highlands where the Vietnamese go to honeymoon. The following summer I jetted off to Madrid to learn Spanish- which proved harder than I’d anticipated, but perhaps that was because of my sangria-soaked brain. Both of these were pre-marriage, pre-children, and more significantly, pre-covid.


It was thus a shock to find myself almost deliriously happy last Friday morning, packing the car to go to The Burrendale Hotel in Newcastle. So excitable was I that I texted into Carolyn on U105’s Lunchtime Bistro. ‘The sun is bright, and my heart is light!’ I wrote. God almighty. That’s what it’s come to.


Arriving, I took the offspring to the pool where I’d booked a slot. Unfortunately, it was filled with other children, whose ear-piercing shrieks reverberated off the tiles, making my eardrums tremble and temples throb. I can’t cope with screaming, especially at a high pitch. Why don’t parents just say ‘stop that immediately, for it is painful on the ears?’ I will never understand this. (I know, just call me Mrs Kill-The-Craic). ‘I’m not cut out for these shenanigans,’ I thought. Meanwhile LSB had a snooze. He was hot, apparently, and very tired, after the 45 minute drive.


Head still pounding, we trotted into town. I had notions of going to boutique-y little fancy shops, but obviously they were all closed, because we weren’t in Spain, where establishments stay open until 10pm for happy holiday maker like ourselves.


Tragically though, a shop called ‘Around A Pound’ was very much open, and when the children spotted it, their eyes lit up. ‘Can we go in? Can we?’ they said, clutching their little purses. ‘We know you don’t like this sort of shop Mummy,’ said the smaller one. ‘You can go somewhere else.’


‘Three words,’ I said. ‘NO PLASTIC SHITE.’ The Older One winced. She takes a very dim view of vulgarity, unless it’s a fart joke, to which she is partial. Shortly afterwards they appeared. Sometimes I worry that my draconian parenting strategies may have caused some sort of imbalance in their brains. They weren’t clutching bubble gum or bright blue sticks of rock or even a stuffed toy. No. Instead they asked: ‘Please can we buy a stapler?’   ‘It would be so useful.’ ‘Obviously you can buy a stapler,’ I said, to which they looked at each other and said ‘YESSS’ as if they were Flander’s kids off the Simpsons.


On the way to the stationery section, I caught sight of a box containing ‘gutter mesh’. ‘Keeps your guttering clear of debris,’ said the box. I stood a moment and wondered if I should buy some. How ingenious I thought, my guttering is sadly lacking, and often filled with bits of twig.  I then wondered how much I needed, and lamented not having the foresight to measure my guttering before leaving the house.


I shook myself out of my stupor. Here I was, on my first night away since September, considering the merits of gutter mesh. Is this my actual life now? I pondered. The Small Child pulled out three shiny pound coins from her purse and bought her stapler. She eschewed a bag and said no, she was happy to carry it. ‘Now I have everything I need,’ she said smiling beatifically. It was a bit like Father Jack and his brick.


The stapler came with us to the Amusements*; it came on the walk to the beach, and it came to dinner, where it sat on the table, pride of place. Back at the hotel, they opened the stapler, after finding some paper which they’d quickly folded to make a book, imaginatively titled ‘Holidays’. And the terrible disappointment on their faces when they discovered that THERE WERE NO STAPLES INCLUDED. And this is how it came to pass that at 11am the following morning, I found myself BACK in ‘Around A Pound’ looking for the appropriately size of staples for the children’s stapler. They didn’t have any. There’s another pound shop up the street said the shopkeeper. ‘You’re alright,’ I said. ‘It’ll do til another day.’


Please feel free to let me know if any of your holiday experiences have been equally uninspiring and made you re-evaluate life choices. Obviously if you’ve had an amazing holiday, just keep it to yourself. Can’t bear to think of everyone else enjoying themselves. Oh, and just to add to it, while LSB took himself off to do Castlewellan park run, I made the children do a litter pick with me, after begging bags and some gloves for the hotel staff. Up and down the Castlewellan Road we went, lifting bottles and cans and crisp packets. I thoroughly enjoyed myself actually, which I suppose says a lot about what I consider fun these days.


*needless to say I LOATHE these arcades with a passion but the Small Child gets wildly excited about them and I struggle to say no to that wee face sometimes.











SWB tries to find her balance

So it’s July, apparently: the arrival of which heralds that instead of taking the kids to school, I’ve to trail them off to various summer camps instead. In an effort to expose them to a range of edifying experiences, I have them doing arts, water-based activities, even at a camp for ‘looking after donkeys, (introductory level)’. All these start at different times and inevitably I will get confused and end up standing at Seapark in Holywood some morning with tennis rackets at ten am when I ought to have been at an art camp at Rosetta at nine. I’ll telling you, it’s bound to happen. At least I don’t have to go to work myself, which is one small bonus, but then again I won’t get paid either, which isn’t so good.  Basically, my head’s just a different type of mashed than usual.

Balance- that’s what we all need. We need to create some good memories and carve out time for ourselves to cancel out the shit-show that has been. That’s why I headed off to Belvoir Park Forest this morning with a yoga mat under my arm, to sit under a canopy of oaks (or they might have been beeches or sycamore, my arboreal knowledge is limited) and took some time to myself under the instruction of the very lovely Treasa Rosato.

Do you know what I miss about staying put over the holidays? It’s the sensory deprivation. I know that sounds silly, but I associate places with smells. With Africa it’s always the woodsmoke; with France it’s the warm, sweet smell that wafts from the boulangeries, and with Spain, where I’ve been more often lately, it’s the particular scent of the hot tarmac which hits me the second I step out of the plane. I miss it all.

But this morning, Treasa was all about stimulating our senses, and her attention to detail was exemplary. She lit a citronella candle and incense sticks to ward off the bugs during our practice. She had gathered rose petals and popped them into into a glass jar, and she invited us to take some. We dipped our noses in our cupped hands and breathed in their delicate, delicious scent, before sprinkling them at the foot of our mats so we could get a whiff during our forward folds and downward dogs. She encouraged us to take off our shoes and socks so we could feel the forest’s ferny floor (as the poet said) against our skin, after which she sprayed our feet with a mixture of tea-tree  and peppermint oil.

We perfected our warriors and trees poses, rooting down to rise with extra concentration than usual so we didn’t face plant the floor because we’d stood on a stood on a stone.

Lying back on our mats we took a moment to look up at the canopy of trees overhead; taking in the different hues of green, shot through with effervescent light. In the distance church bells chimed and dogs barked and magpies chattered.  It felt wonderful to be outside, with real people united in a moment of calm.

If you too, could do with a dose of serenity, might I suggest that you give Treasa a follow on Instagram and see when she’s doing one of these sessions again. After this year, we gotta replenish ourselves how we can, and start grabbing on to every bit of joy within our grasp. Given that experience this morning, there’s a marginally higher chance that I’ll be at the correct drop off point tomorrow.