Monthly Archives:

July 2023


SWB causes chaos

So basically, I’m a bit of a twat. Let me expand.


The day before we were coming home was blustery, and the children and I were as unsettled as the weather. I was still mortified after the body boarding incident, and irked that I wasn’t stronger, even after all the ‘Building muscle for peri-menopausal women’ videos on Instagram I’d watched.


Off we headed for dinner, but a surge of new arrivals at the campsite meant that the usually well-organised system in the restaurant was in disarray. The mood, having been buoyant for the rest of the holiday, took a downward turn, and my luke-warm glass of sauvignon blanc did little to boost my spirits. (I don’t care that it’s from the local vineyard, just put the fecking bottle in the fecking fridge. And leave it there, FFS.)


But after our pizza and a carafe of more temperate red arrived, things started to improve. The children even looked up from their screens and made conversation. It had, we all agreed, been a great trip, and we were sad to be leaving France.


That’s when a French couple were shown to the table beside us with a very cute, but very boisterous collie pup. Delighted with himself he was, wee tail going a dinger as everyone smiled and looked up from their dinners as the bouncy little fellow arrived.


‘Would the couple mind,’ I asked, ‘if we stroked the pup?’ And then a brain wave struck; given how long the desserts were likely to take to arrive, perhaps my husband could take the pup on a dander and the girls could stretch their legs?


The couple were overjoyed. No bother at all! Someone had already taken their children so they could have a meal in peace! What had they done to deserve it?! We all laughed merrily and I smiled as my family were despatched.


Ten minutes, I thought. Just ten minutes to read my book, and look forward to a sundae for pudding, coconut and vanilla ice cream, doused with Malibu and slathered with fresh cream. (It’s becoming  clear why I couldn’t master the paddle boarding, as it had been a fortnight of such indulgences.)


I read a chapter, then another. By the time I began the third I was beginning to worry. No waiter either to take an order, so I wasn’t pleased. Enter a small panicked child. In tears. People were shouting at Daddy, saying he’d stolen the dog. Out I went and there was LSB,  clinging to the dog’s lead while surrounded by a fractious crowd, a camp security guard and two members of the animation team looking at him accusingly.

‘WALKING,’ LSB was shouting, trying to be heard over the din. ‘I’m WALKING LE CHIEN!’


The child of the couple had seen their dog being walked by a stranger and gone berserk. Out came the dad to settle matters, but the on-lookers still looked at us with suspicion and disdain.


LSB was shaken up by the whole affair. Initially I thought it the baying crowd which had upset him, but it transpired that the pup had bitten him. Twice. The child had tried to unclip the dog from the lead LSB was holding, and in the furore, it had nipped him on the arm and the leg. ‘Now I have to go home and get a f**king tetanus jab,’ he said, seething.


He was wrong. He needed FOUR jabs. The following Monday, at the Urgent Care at Lagan Valley Hospital, they took it all VERY seriously. He had one injection in each arm, plus seven day’s worth of antibiotics. Next month he needs another jab, and a final one in September. He had never been immunised for Tetanus before, hence this battery of precautions.


I thought I would be properly in the dog house (pardon the pun), but he was remarkably sanguine about it all, once we got home. I was on chatting to Frank Mitchell about the potential hazards of holidays, and he got the whole story. The pup was a bit of a headcase, I explained. ‘Let’s call a spade a spade,’ said Frank. ‘The pup wasn’t the headcase. Stevey wasn’t the headcase, I think we know exactly who’s to blame here.’


The moral of the story (aside from having an up-to-date tetanus booster) is not to get tipsy and garrulous and volunteer your husband to walk other people’s pets. ‘If I ever suggest the like of that again, just tell me to f**k up,’ I told Stevey. ‘Awk, I won’t say that,’ he replied, ‘I’ll just say, ‘Remember France.’

I’m not likely to forget for a while.


SWB makes a fool of herself

(not how I looked..)

It had all been going so well. Too well, perhaps. I was beginning to feel a tiny bit of smugness creeping in, as in ‘Just maybe, as both children have reached double digits, I’m learning to master family holidays. Then I had to go and ruin it.

Poor auld LSB. I’ve told him, if he wants to leave me, I will be very sad but I’ll understand. I’ve brought it upon myself with my foolishness.

It was the last full day of the trip, and a breeze whistled its way through the campsite. We were roused by the clatter of pinecones thudding down on the tin roof of the caravan, and stepping out unto the porch I set about retrieving a few pairs of pants which I’d washed and inexpertly pegged to the clothes horse.

It was an odd choice then, to decide to go paddle boarding. ‘Sure, we’ll see what it’s like at the beach,’ I said, optimistically. The man though, who rented the boards, said it was fine, once you got over the first waves at the water’s edge, it was calmer. It was our only chance if we wanted to have a go, because the waves would reach 2 metres later on in the afternoon and he was shutting up shop. Down at the shore a couple of children played on body boards and one fellow was out paddling; I reckoned we’d be fine. LSB WAS fine. Once he wrestled his way out it was surprisingly peaceful, and he even managed to stand up, and looked competent, one could almost say poised and athletic.

When it came time to swap though, I was less so, and even when I reached the calmer water my legs were so shaky, I could barely kneel on the board, never mind stand. Anxious of appearing like the twat I was; dishevelled and incapable in front of the elegant French people sunning themselves on the sand, I determined to paddle inwards. ‘Feck this,’ I thought. As I scooped ineffectually at the water a wave swelled behind me, and sent me catapulting off. Immediately after I’d hauled my hefty-self back on, another crashed into the board and away I went again. This time, It took a while for me to reappear, causing some consternation from Himself, looking nervously out sea, For someone with a dodgy back and pelvis, wrestling with waves and boards isn’t something I’d recommend.

Out LSB swam to save me, all purposeful and Mitch Buchanan-like. ‘All the upper strength work at the gym has paid off,’ he said, taking the board and retrieving the oar and untying the safety leash from my ankle. I swam back to shore, but was so battered by the elements I could barely get ,myself in, and washed up like a bloated walrus on the sand, after dropping to my hands and knees to clamber in. The French sunbathers looked on, making only minimal efforts to  camouflage their smirks. I sat there, coughing up yet more salt water and discreetly shook a load of pebbly sand from my bikini bottoms. LSB dragged the board in and plonked down beside me. ‘Where’d I be without you?’ I asked, sheepishly. ‘Halfway to Morocco, I expect,’ he replied.

(SWB pictured post paddle board)

These were only the events of Saturday morning, so tune in to the blog later in the week to read how I disgraced myself in the evening. No shortage of entertainment here (unless, of course, you’re LSB.)




SWB on Handling Holidays with Care

Jess Carter-Morley wrote a great piece in The Guardian recently on how to holiday like a pro. One piece of sage advice I took to heart was to have a rest BEFORE the holiday. (I would take it further and suggest a couple of days either end, should one have the luxury.) Be honest though, how often have you spent the first few days pulsing with such adrenalin that relaxation is off the cards completely?

We had a break in Portugal back in May, and what with work beforehand, we didn’t board our Easyjet flight well-rested and serene. LSB had the beginnings of a stye, red and angry on his left eyelid. ‘The sun will help it,’ I said optimistically, ‘it’ll be gone by tomorrow!’ Alas my positivity was unfounded and it continued to grow in size and ferocity. (Previously to this I had taken a rash in my armpits as a reaction to a new deodorant. Together we resembled Middle Age plague victims.)

Despite his distress, because as well as looking revolting it was, apparently, very painful, I set about organising activities. Who wants to go dolphin watching? I asked. Zero interest. Who fancies a coastal grotto tour? Sub-zero interest. Who wants to play in a freezing pool and splash me while I read the new Marian Keyes? Well, that was right up the children’s street, obviously, so I perched by the chilly poolside, wondering how if 11am, was too early to get tore into a Verdejo. Meanwhile, LSB lay up in the room with a teabag on his eyelid, which was of no use whatsoever because the trick is to apply said teabag before the lid has swelled to the size of a leprechaun’s scrotum.

It wasn’t a remotely relaxing holiday. First of all, I forgot my driver’s licence, so LSB had to do all the driving, with only one functioning eye. He did very well, considering. I can only relax when I feel I DESERVE to relax, I feel I have to EARN the wine and crisps and ice-cream. The day I dragged everyone rock-climbing, for example, I felt I could really enjoy my Argentinian steak with a carafe of Malbec that evening.

Carter-Morley also suggests that one has realistic goals and expectations of a holiday. The problem is, for me, that a holiday for LSB means having the chance to sit on his arse and relax. The highlight for him last year in France, was reading a book on the shady terrace of the caravan we rented. Delighted with himself he was, sipping a beer and chortling away to himself at some shite on his phone. I, on the other hand, was like Tigger on amphetamines. What will we do next? Kayak? Paddle board? Who wants to do aqua-aerobics? Apparently, I’m rather annoying.

We are presently on holiday again, and this time, I’m a different type of annoying. LSB is minus stye and in better humour, and we are with my friend in Barcelona, hanging out with her bulldog, Jason. Aside from my pidgin Spanish, I feel like a native, wandering around the barrio with my trusty hound. And instead of complaining and being sour, I keep telling LSB, Isn’t this WONDERFUL? But isn’t it? Isn’t it really? When are we coming back?’ The superlatives just keep on flowing. ‘You’re kind of a person of extremes,’ aren’t you, opined the Small Child, with a degree of insight.

I think though, there is a solution at hand, and the solution is to be learnt from the Spanish. Here most Spaniards have a ‘horario de verano’ which means they work fewer hours in July and then the month of August OFF. The district of Sarrià, where we are at the moment, is like a ghost town in August because most locals head to the coast or to the Pyrenees.  If I wasn’t trying to cram all the things I want to do into a short period of time, I would be much happier because I wouldn’t feel such pressure and could actually relax: I’d be neither hyper Helen nor hyperbolic Helen. Happily, as  long as a decent beer is at hand, LSB is can generally cope with both.