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January 2022

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SWB hosts a Book Club (via bloody Zoom, obviously, cos that’s where we’re still at)

Hello good people. I hope you are all well, and not overwhelmed by the prospect of Blue Monday, and thinking of spending the day in bed, a-sipping at a bottle of Blue Nun to keep with the theme.

On Wednesday evening I am delighted to have been asked to host January’s book club with the Irish Secretariat. Unsurprisingly my choice of book has an environmental theme and if you haven’t read Dara McNulty’s ‘Diary of a Young Naturalist’ then I can thoroughly recommend it. I can barely tell an oak from an ash or a jay from a jackdaw (ok, I’m exaggerating there) but I do wish I knew more, and this is a great place to start. What I am committed to is taking small steps to addressing the havoc generations before us have wrecked upon the planet, and I’m quite in awe of this young chap’s passion and encyclopaedic knowledge.

Should you wish to join in, pop me a DM and I’ll get you the link on Wednesday.

 

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SWB makes rest a doing word

The French have a great word ‘coincée’ (pronounced ‘quant-sayed’) which has popped into my head often these holidays. The best way to sum it up in English, is, I think, ‘stymied at every turn’ which sums up more or less how I’ve felt, from approximately March 2020 but with particular intensity this last month. Almost every opportunity for space and frivolity has been curtailed in some way and of course I’m very good at coincé-ing myself, filling my house with children and animals, all of which compete for my attention.

I LONGED to go abroad this Christmas, but watched as each option slipped through my fingers. Making any kind of trip into a reality seemed to necessitate a fair bit of good luck and a side order of fairy dust.  I spent hours on the net, but aside from the price hike of any trip during the school holidays, there were whatever restrictions to consider, with possible ramifications for my work if our PCRS weren’t clear. I admire people who can be flexible about switching flights and changing plans; who can just let them go if it doesn’t work out. Letting go in general isn’t my strong point.

My brother lives in Ras Al Kaimah in the UAE. We haven’t seen him since 2019, and we miss him, especially my wee girls. But luckily, we didn’t venture out to see him after all, given that he ended up with Covid and in bed all of Christmas Day. However, regardless, of any of the practicalities, I’m not sure I could have made the trip anyway. My body has just refused to play ball. I have been rendered listless with lethargy; felled by fatigue; toppled by tiredness.

On Christmas Eve I felt perkier and said, with great enthusiasm to my friend, ‘let’s do a day trip to the Mournes! Just ourselves, no children! Oh, the joy. By the following evening I was thinking longingly of my pyjamas by the time the Queen’s Speech was due to air. The Mournes trip never materialised. Nor have windswept beach walks, cold-water swims or New Year runs.

My Facebook feed is awash with photos of people engaged in wholesome activities; embracing the outdoors regardless of the elements. I, meanwhile, had to ask LSB to slow down when we walked the dog along the embankment. ‘Can I just get a taxi home?’ I asked at one point, but we sat down to rest for a few minutes on a wall instead before shuffling on.

I’ve taken more lateral flows than the government is recommending given the shortages, and I’m apparently covid-less but symptom full.

And all this has made me feel cross and resentful and angry as term starts again for me tomorrow. I feel as though I’m standing below an avalanche and I’m bracing myself for the onslaught. But today, in an unusual bout of positive introspection, I took a moment to focus less on what others have got up to, and reflected a little on myself.

I didn’t do yoga everyday as planned, but I have slathered myself in cream my friend has made from flowers she has grown from seed and distilled in oil and melded into body butter.

I have cuddled under blankets watching sitcoms with the girls, warmed from the glow of the wood burner.

I washed dishes while listening to the words of Katherine May’s ‘Wintering’, and thought how she might just have it sussed.

I have bashed biscuits to make tiffin from left over selection box chocolate and dunked it in tea.

I have grilled cheese on hot toast and set it down to old friends.

And this morning, I tuned in to a poetry workshop and sat, propped up in bed like an imperious queen, asking LSB for a refill of coffee and a chocolate digestive. He brought me not one but three and a freshly brewed coffee in my new mug. This time, it’s not the word ‘coincée’ but instead the phrase ‘my cup overfloweth’ that springs to mind. Well, I’m unlikely to be thinking this tomorrow, but learning to rejoice in the moment, perhaps that’s one resolution I can try and keep in 2022. And yesterday morning, we finally made it to Murlough for a short walk. Glorious it was too.