Monthly Archives:

April 2022


SWB on when a plan finally comes together

It’s 3-45am in Dublin Airport, and apparently we’re in the fast track lane. However, we haven’t moved an inch. The air is tight with the frustrations of hundreds of passengers all crammed together, hot and breathless under their face masks. I feel sweat run down my back in rivulets and gather at the base of my spine. ‘If you can’t say something helpful, just keep your mouth bloody well closed,’ snaps the girl behind us (who bears an almost freakish resemblance to Peter Griffin in Family Guy) to her travelling companion. Suddenly security opens and the queues shuffle forward. They are mercifully efficient and soon we are disgorged through to the departure lounge where I think longingly of coffee, until I see there’s at least a twenty-minute wait between me and a latte. LSB’s eyes wander towards the bar and I can almost hear his brain trying to compute whether it’s too early or too late for a Guinness. Either way, the bustling mass in line for their pints seems to put him off the notion.

And yet, I am not oozing my usual anger and impatience because despite it all, I am here, and even making it to Dublin to fly to Barcelona feels like a miracle. I will be meeting my friend Rhaiza for the first time in two years. I haven’t seen   her daughter since she was four, and next month she turns fourteen. This all feels very wrong. It has been a marathon to get to this point with both parents finally catching Covid and my dad ending up in hospital. All this when my brother made it back from UAE for the first time in three years. For over a week my stomach has been in a swirl, and I’ve been demented. ‘You can’t smell burnt toast, can you?’* asks LSB, when after a lengthy search, he relocates all the passports, which he diligently left on the table, and I have swept into the blue recycling bin with a pile of newspapers the day before we leave.

Incredibly, our Ryan Air flight gets us into Barcelona ten minutes ahead of schedule. The airport feels almost empty compared to Dublin and the sky is a dazzling blue when we step out to hail a cab. There is initial confusion when I tell the driver to take us to the ‘Attico’ district in Sarrià, and he looks bewildered. I show him the address and he informs me that ‘Attico’ means ‘the top floor’, so I just sit back and let him drive, without embarrassing myself further.  Upon reaching the apartment block I am practically out of the car before the driver has the brakes on, leaving LSB to pay up. Too impatient to wait for the lift, I run up nine flights of stairs by which stage I am almost too breathless to even manage ‘Hola’ as Rhaiza opens the door. The others have beaten me to it and as we all pour in, Jason the bulldog jumps joyfully around our feet and the preceding week of chaos melts away.

Follow up post coming soon on the delights of the Sarrià area where we stayed.

*apparently a sign of stroke. I did not know this.


SWB Feels the Squeeze

I rang The Mothership yesterday and she had a quare laugh to herself, at my expense. I’d called to tell her that on Saturday morning I’m going to be chatting to Will Leitch on ‘On Your Behalf’ at Radio Ulster at half past ten. We’re talking ways to reduce spending, as the gas and electricity prices rocket and we all feel the pinch. You should have heard the laughs of her.

‘Is this an April Fool’s joke,’ says she. ‘You, on the radio, talking about SAVING money?  Who’s going to listen to someone who’s never off the Ormeau Road, having her dinner?’

‘Well, that’s just where you’re wrong,’ I told her, ‘because while I love an evening out, I’m very good a cutting corners elsewhere.’

That much at least is true. On Thursday night I had a dress on me that I bought in 2018 off a sale-rail in a Dublin boutique, with a pair of boots I picked up for a fiver in the Hospice Shop. ‘Rewearing is caring,’ I told the Mothership. ‘You’re telling me,’ she said. ‘I’ve clothes up there in the wardrobe that our twenty years old, at the very least.’

But it’s not just The Mothership’s frugality when it comes to buying clothes that she’s passed on. She’s also runs an EXTREMELY energy efficient home, and has passed those traits along to me.  I’ve LSB’s head turned as I run round the house switching off all the lights when he leaves them blazing away. He has the place lit up like Blackpool Illuminations, and also never turns off the radio when he leaves the room. It makes me twitch.  I, on the other hand,  won’t run the tumble drier unless it’s absolutely essential. I pluck chargers out of their sockets as soon as my devices are at full capacity and I only ever half fill the kettle for a cup of tea. I also eke out all our curries and pasta sauces with lentils and hidden vegetables to bulk them out so we get an extra lunch or dinner.  ‘I’m really very conscientious,’ I said, as I regaled the Mothership with all of this. She made a non-committal ‘Hmm’ sound.

Hard woman to please. Anyway, here’s another few suggestions below, some of which I’ll be mentioning on the programme.

Car-pooling. The week before last I travelled to work with a friend, thus saving money on petrol and reducing air pollution. A happy by-product of this was that it eliminated the stress of parking. I hate parking, and didn’t realise just how much until I was spared the ordeal of it for a week.

Eating out. Of course we want to support our local cafes and restaurants, but if you feel like trying a more expensive venue, opt for going out for lunch instead of dinner, or go for a pre-theatre menu. If you fancy a tipple along with your meal, it’s also much easier to get a bus during the day instead of paying for a taxi later in the evening. Often the quality of the service is much better at a less busy time and your can actually hear your dining companions, if you’re like me and are a bit deaf. I HATE having to shout to be heard over blaring music. (Yep, I’ll lift my zimmer on the way out.)

Spending time with friends. Seeing people you care about shouldn’t be about wowing them with a four-course meal with fillet steaks and a bottle of Bollinger. (As if. Come to mine and it’s invariably a chicken curry, though there may be a nice piece of cheese from Indie Fude.) But seriously, going all out when you have people round only piles on the pressure and makes them resistant to hosting in return. If you’re a busy person and perhaps a working parent, just keep your expectations low and enjoy being with your guests.

Birthday gifts. Well, these can be an arse-ache when the kids are at primary school and you have half the class coming to the party. A mum in our daughter’s class suggested giving a fiver in a hand card card. How we embraced it!  It saves the aggravation of trailing round Smyths  and your stay mercifully clear of wrapping paper and plastic shite your child never wanted in the first place.

Check out Freecycle on line before you buy. There is a brilliant Freecycle scene here in Northern Ireland; and it’s where I got most of my hall furniture and a child’s bed.

Changing how I shop.  ‘Swap don’t shop’ and ‘rewearing is caring’ have become my favourite mantras. It’s important to dispel the notion that people, (usually girls,) feel that they have to have a different outfit for every evening out, and this has been exacerbated by Instagram. As a result, many young people subscribe to the notion that if it’s been worn once, then it’s finished with. What a nonsense! The earth can’t keep up with this idea, and so it’s time we consider other options. I love a good clothes swap, and recently attended one at the Lyric Theatre, hosted by  ‘The Homeless Period.’  It’s also an opportunity to do a clear out, and who doesn’t need that? ‘The Wardrobe’ on the Newtownards Road also hosts these, and it, along with Déjà Vu on the Lisburn Road, are excellent options for good quality second hand clothes. They are also on the look out for decent outfits which are still in good condition, so it’s worth approaching them with that outfit you bought for a wedding and know you’ll never wear again.

Recently I’ve become  obsessed with selling clothes via the Vinted app. It’s easy to use and I post the items off in recycled packaging, which gives me no end of pleasure since our house is full of it. My best (and only purchase from Vinted so far) was a warm winter coat from Next which I bought for £10. The buyer pays for the postage and I find this an easier way to sell than e-bay.

Insurance. Another quick way to keep a few extra pounds in your pocket is to challenge your home or car insurers when they send you the renewal letter. I never pay automatically; I pick up the phone, tell them I’m one of their loyalest customers and ask if they’ll do me a better deal. I usually save about £40 immediately, which I feel smug about for approximately five minutes until I remember that I need to get petrol. Back to that car pool idea then…

Seriously though; this is a dire situation for many and I appreciate that the struggle is going to be real. We will definitely be staying in more, especially if we want to afford a holiday. With that in mind, there are some lovely ideas in today’s Guardian about making your home a calmer place where you feel happy and relaxed. I know those adjectives may seem at odds with our current world climate, but as I said in last week’s post, we have to grab the good vibes where we can, and as programmes like The Home Edit can show us, some bright colours and a bit of organisation may just give us a tiny bit of the peace we crave.