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April 2023


SWB on the perils of footwear

I met my friend last night at an event. As she turned to speak me she turned her body a full 180 degrees instead of just inclining her head. ‘I’ve hurt my back,’ she explained, ‘falling UP the stairs.’ She tripped about three steps up, lost her balance and fell awkwardly. Her family came running to find her sprockled in the hallway. ‘Don’t move!’ ordered her son, who, 18 months into his St John’s Ambulance training, is the self-appointed medic in the house. ‘It could be a spinal injury,’ he added, which didn’t reassure my friend, who was hoping that no more than her pride was hurt. Happily she suffered no lasting damage and is just a bit stiff and sore. The culprit for her tumble? Her slippers. Readers, take this column as your friendly public service broadcast, and invest in a pair of solid, grip-soled, well-fitting house shoes. Google ‘slipper related injuries’  and articles such as ‘Beware of the Slipper’ appear, advising that one exercises great caution when considering the choice of indoor footwear. It advises particularly against ‘bulky out-sized novelty slippers,’ (these are unwise apparel for housework, it counsels), but number one risk is ‘tumbling downstairs’, as my friend can unfortunately attest.

You know what else are lethal? Fleecy socks, the type advertised with cuddly bears in pastel shades on the label which nauseatingly read, ‘cosy up, it’s snuggle-time!’ These should be banned, if you ask me. I speak with some authority on the matter, because for reasons best known only to himself, my husband donned a thick pair of socks when we were entertaining over the holidays. Yes, Easter this year was uncharacteristically nippy, but why he deemed them necessary I’m not sure. Anyhoo, treacherous socks combined with the frictionless surface of our tiled bathroom floor proved a bad combination. Down he went like a sack of spuds, emitting a blood-chilling howl, at 12.05, having nodded off on the sofa. Full disclosure folks; drink had been taken. He has a tendency to down red wine as a parched child would guzzle Ribena at a soft-play area, but sadly for him, our downstairs loo afforded no such padded surfaces. He thinks he may have cracked a rib. Listening to him bleat on about it has been a joy, I assure you. He claims that the socks were definitely more responsible than the shiraz and they have been since consigned to the fabric bin at Ormeau Recycling Centre.

It’s not just footwear which can prove treacherous. Once one reaches a certain age, chronic pain can be precipitated by the most harmless-sounding activities. Two of friends have recently fallen victim to frozen shoulders and tennis elbow respectively. Both of these are entirely un-sport related, and were induced by knitting. Yes, knitting. ‘What are you made of, cotton wool?’ asked one of their less than sympathetic daughters. ‘It was rather a chunky yarn,’ one of them admitted, who was fashioning a cable-knit cardigan for her son, ‘and I did hurry myself to get it finished.’ I never had knitting down as an extreme sport, but sure, you read it here first.

I’d say we’re best up doing nothing, just sitting on the sofa nursing cups of tea, but the floor is better for all your joints apparently, and scalds from kettles are on the rise too. If you’ve any ideas for risk-free pursuits, do get in touch. I’m all ears.



SWB on Entertaining

Is there such a thing as stress-free entertaining? Not in my experience, although it’s something I do so often I should be a regular virtuoso by now. According to a recent survey by Tesco, the most anxiety provoking thing is having a clean, tidy house before the deluge of guests arrives. I agree entirely; there is always a certain point, usually thirty minutes before the ring-a-ding-ding heralds the visitors’ arrival, that my jaw sets into a rictus grin and I start barking commands between my teeth.

‘Put the shoes AWAY!’ ‘Get a hand towel for the bathroom!’ ‘No, that’s a BATHMAT!’ ‘Yes, there IS a difference!’

Hairbrushes and bills and pens are swept off the counter into bags which end up under a pile of random detritus and remain lost for weeks. LSB scuttles about lighting candles in an effort to create ambiance and calm my nerves. ‘Would you like a drink?’ he asks in a hopeful tone, which is just an excuse for him get tore in, under the guise of placating me.

Another stress-factor for would-be hosts, is the worry that the food they offer up will be sub-standard. An old friend of ours used to regale us with stories about her pal who was an appalling cook, but undeterred by her lack of culinary prowess, still entertained regularly. ‘Can you eat your avocado?’ whispered a fellow diner at one of her suppers, ‘because mine’s like a bloody brick.’

But worse I feel, than serving up inedible food, is not serving up enough food. Scorched into my brain in high resolution is the memory of relatives coming for lunch one Easter Tuesday. I still wince when I think about it. Ill-advisably, I had hosted a dinner for neighbours the night before. All Lenten restraint was abandoned, the effects of which I felt deeply the following morning. Incapable of rational thought, I unwisely exhorted my aunt and her family to come. I was keen to show them my new kitchen extension, which I told them was perfect for entertaining. Rule number one though, when inviting people for lunch, is to ensure you have something to feed them. Given that my brain resembled rump steak to which a meat tenderiser had been applied, I didn’t conduct a stocktake. Before they arrived, I peeked under the tin-foiled plates in the fridge, thinking I still had generous portions of quiche and dessert left. Nope, just a subdued looking slice of pie that a child had clearly poked at. I had one pizza and a limp-looking salad. LSB was back at work, and couldn’t be summoned from his desk, because he had a shite holiday allocation back then. There was thus no one to conduct an emergency run to M&S. As I produced this paltry fare, my children, who were small and usually sparrow-like in their eating habits, swiftly demolished most of the pizza. I had to root about in the fridge until I found a tub of soup|: I still wince at the memory.

Later, I relayed the debacle to The Mothership, who was horrified at the scant offerings I had dished up to her relatives. She’s a country woman at heart, and if you don’t need hauled from your chair after a meal then she doesn’t consider it a job well done.

My tips then for stress free entertaining include avoiding doing so if your head feels like a bag of chisels. Secondly, the slow cooker is your friend. This recipe for beef and ginger is guaranteed to please and it’s best made in the morning, so as your guests arrive they are greeted by the scent of aromatic Asian fare that tastes as though you put a lot more work into it then you actually did. Serve it with perfectly cooked rice (2 cups of water to one cup of well-rinsed basmati) and dinner is served. I would dish this up with a fine bottle of Bardolino, a light Italian red which doesn’t thwack you in the head like a Malbec and is thus the perfect accompaniment to what is basically a meat stew. The Vineyard on Ormeau has some gorgeous varieties. Serve this up generously to your guests and coupled with the pale glow of candle light, no one will notice (nor care) about the cluttered corners and filthy windows you never got to.

Happy Easter all!