Monthly Archives:

November 2022


SWB Rejects Black Friday

So last week I clicked on an advert for fancy shelves I’d been ogling for a while on my Instagram feed. My collection of books is steadily increasingly (I blame the second-hand shops on Botanic for my most recent haul) and I want to be able to store them effectively. ‘Oooh,’ says I to myself. ‘A deal! How serendipitous.’ Except it wasn’t. While the initial ad lured me in with 50% in bold font, most shelves I looked at had a mere 20% discount and were still so over-priced that I wouldn’t even entertain buying them. The books will remain in teetering piles on the floor then.

It will be the same in the shops and I guarantee you that if you’re in the town today you will see promotional material displayed willy-nilly, but on closer inspection will find that many items are hardly reduced at all.

And if they ARE discounted, you need to consider whether they are still worth buying. ‘Which?’ magazine award ‘don’t buy labels’ to items which they deem duds, and a waste of money, whether they are heavily discounted but are in fact duds or not. Black Friday Deals rely on the assumption that consumers will buy on impulse, and perhaps haven’t done their research and think that one TV or fridge freezer is as good as the next.

According to Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis, ‘if you weren’t going to buy it, but do it only because it’s half price, then you’ve wasted 100% of your money.’ Now that’s hardly rocket science, yet I can see how it happens when the furore and panic that surrounds Black Friday deals mounts and so people panic shop, for fear of missing out. Don’t give in to corporate greed and allow them to suck you in!

I’ve been thinking more and more about ‘conscious gifting’, taking the time to ask friends and family what they really want. I’ve collected items for umpteen school fairs and ballot prizes over the years, so I’ve see first-hand the unwanted and unopened gift packs of toiletries that people have donated. Undoubtedly, this is the sort of generic item that will be snapped up by folk trying to get ahead with their Christmas shopping on Black Friday. A colleague who moved house recently found a huge box in the roof space, which was crammed with bath products, all still in their packaging. All that money for a quick ‘thank you very much’ before it’s fired into a cupboard to add to our never-ending clutter.

If ever there was a time, then surely it’s now, to ask the people we buy for what they’d really like. Maybe it’s their favourite lip-stick (Mac in ‘Fast Play’ if you’re asking), or fancy coffee, or maybe it’s new socks. SOCKS? I hear you say, has SWB become so Grinch-like and boring that she’s advocating we all buy each other SOCKS? Hear me out on this though. Socks are useful but I’ve never said to myself, ‘I’m away out here to treat myself to a nice pair of feet warmers.’ I like to have toasty trotters so I’m always happy to receive a few pairs.  And it’s actually become so cliché to give socks as gifts that it doesn’t happen as much anymore, making recipients of socks even more grateful.

My message is this- stop buying stuff you don’t need, or if it’s a gift, something that wouldn’t want yourself. If it’s not a ‘hell yes!’ then it shouldn’t be coming home with you. Support the small businesses where you can, our growers and grafters, our potters and painters and those who have turned their passion into livelihoods. Instead of investing our hard-earned cash into something bland and generic, let’s support the real heroes of the high street, those whose sole purpose isn’t greed but a desire to see the world in a more imaginative, colourful way.


SWB on taking it slow in November

Do you know what has only just dawned on me? The first two letters in November are ‘NO’. I’m taking this to mean that we say a big NO THANK YOU to anything which doesn’t serve us this month. Sure haven’t we all enough to be doing, working and ferrying youngsters about, all the usual stuff, as well as avoiding the news lest we’re just catapulted into Nihilistic despair. Darker are the nights and dreary are the days and all too easily your mood can go to shite as the gloom descends. SO here’s what I’m saying ‘no’ to this November so that I can exhale and let my mind and body say YES. (Not in a Meg Ryan way but sure wouldn’t that just do us the power of good? Anyone want to mind my menagerie here and let himself and me away for a night? No takers? Well, one can dare to dream.)


I digress. Firstly, it’s a big NO to doing MO-vember. Life’s sufficiently trying without Himself running round looking like a 1970’s West Belfast blanket man. We’ll make a donation to this excellent cause and be done with it. There’s not many can rock a moustache IMHO, except perhaps Bear Grylls; but he doesn’t count as he’d still look attractive boasting his handlebar moustache while drinking his own pee in the Outer Mongolian outback. What LSB CAN rock however, is the sexy stubble look, and he’s taken to visiting the Turkish barbers for a shave once a week. He looks the business and I’m all chuffed because he doesn’t get the razor out and clog up the sink with a million little bristly hairs.


It’s a NO to going out in town. Lynette Faye was on the money on this when she posted about the dire state of affairs on Twitter at the weekend. I can’t be doing with this caper, so if I go out at all it’s going to be on the good old Ormeau so I can leg it up the road when I want to. The days of fruitlessly ringing for a taxi are GONE, I tell you. Frankly, the stress of trying to get home outweighs any of the enjoyment had, so unless someone volunteers to drive, I’m either staying local or staying on my sofa. End of.


It’s a NO to festive shopping and in particular, Black Friday and ‘fear-of-missing-a-bargain’ nonsense.’ I HATE all the e-mails flooding my inbox and the panic shop that they are supposed to prompt. I’ve wasted time and money on this before and I’m not doing it again. I refuse to go down the middle-class Boden and Joules route, paying excessively for a tee-shirt because it boasts an appliqued sloth. Rarely are the bargains worth the effort. The fabulous duo at Order In The House are posting great gift ideas which support local businesses and won’t clutter up my home, so I may get on to that. But not now. And not yet. Not during my NO month.


It’s a massive YES to nourishing the soul. I’m inviting rituals into my life; I’m lighting my candles and toasting my toes at the fire. I watch an episode of Malcom in the Middle with the girls before a chapter of Judy Blume (our favourite is Superfudge, but we’re presently on ‘Are You There God It’s Me Margaret’) before bed. They need the quiet time too. I’m refusing to do anything in my free time which doesn’t lighten my mood and unburden the spirit. Too much? Perhaps. But I’m enjoying myself, and to paraphrase Father Fintan Stack in Father Ted, ‘I’m having my fun and that’s all that matters.’ With the Christmas season comes inevitable traipsing, and there are invitations to which we just can’t say no. My rationale is thus to say no now and conserve energy.


For the next six weeks I’m doing a writing workshop with the poet Anne McMaster. It’s called ‘The Dancing Light’ and is every bit as magical as it sounds. For two glorious hours a week I hang out with creative souls and we let our ideas bubble to the surface. November, we have decided, should be a time of contemplation, a pause before the frenetic hither and thither of December. I have carved out this ‘me time’ and trust me when I say it’s golden. When I log on to Zoom I feel tired and lacklustre, but within a few minutes I feel a creative surge of energy, as though Anne has taken metaphorical bellows and sparked a flame within.


Nourish your souls dear people. Make the time and relish every second- I refuse to just put the time in until Christmas. Every day is precious, let’s find ways to make each one count.


*Thanks to Anne McMaster for letting me use one of her photographs from Rosehill Farm near Garvagh. I chose this photo because it illustrated what we talked about last week. Winter may strips trees back, but a stark beauty remains.