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January 2024


SWB on Soul-Searching and Sausages

It’s weird isn’t it, the things that can catch you unawares and upset your balance. Last week it was a surfeit of sausages which caught me off-guard. I’d been down seeing the writer Donal Ryan as part of the Out to Lunch Festival, at which one is treated to a light bite while enjoying literary stimulation. A fine raconteur is Donal Ryan, though I have yet to forgive him for penning ‘The Thing About December’ and the character Johnsey, a good and innocent sort of a cratur who remains lodged in my heart. I still get teary when I think about him despite reading the book some time ago.

Anyway, I spied a rake of sausages languishing in a tray at the end, and asked a kindly woman if I could take some home for the dog. She told me to take as many as I liked, so I wrapped some up in foil and told her the dog would be delighted.

And delighted she was too, with her tasty morsel, but the cats looked on in disgust, so I had to plate some up for them as well, in appropriate cat-sized chunks. Slovenly creature that I am though, I left them on the counter while I scarpered upstairs, having done a yoga class prior to the reading, and it, coupled with my heightened emotional state hearing about wee Johnsey again, that I needed a lie down.

MUM! I heard the Older Child yell, rousing me from my slumber.

Down I came to find her filled with opprobrium. ‘I came into the kitchen and stood on a sausage,’ she said indignantly, ‘and I was pulling it off my sock when the dog came in, and ATE IT.’

As she puffed out her cheeks in a show of wanting to vomit, I spied remnants of foil on the floor and surmised that an opportunistic cat had deemed her portion of sausage inadequate, and taken matters into her own paws by helping herself. Later we found more sausage under a chair, which suggested the cat had batted what was left around the floor. (We don’t usually just leave half-eaten pork products on the carpet. Honestly.)

This sausage business  reminded me of sitting in ‘We Are Vertigo’ in November after the bastard transfer tests, chatting with other mums about the kids growing up so fast and how soft play areas would soon be a distant memory. ‘Phew,’ I said, ‘ghastly places.’

‘It’s the smell of sweat mingled with disinfectant that turns me,’ opined one mum, wrinkling her nose. (Cue vigorous nodding from the rest of us.) ‘And there’s always a child with half a chicken nugget stuck to their sock,’ said another. But then we went quiet, thinking how we’d miss seeing our children this way; faces red from the exertion of swinging and sliding and climbing out of the ball-pit before the kid who looks old enough to buy a carry-out lands on their head as he flies off the freefall.

And I thought again of this on Saturday, when the Older Child and I walked the dog. My quads were burning from a run, and I was clad in baggy track bottoms and a puffy jacket. It didn’t make for a flattering silhouette. Impatient, she strode ahead, legs long and lean in leggings, while I shuffled behind, tugging the dog as she stopped to sniff every flipping lamp-post.

And I know the Child’s only twelve, but the image seemed to echo the future and Heaney’s words from Follower popped into my head: ‘But today/It is my father who keeps stumbling/ Behind me, and will not go away.’

Never mind The Thing About December, January does it to me every time; the reality of life too keenly felt after the froufrou of Christmas, and I turn to introspection and self-scrutiny. And all this prompted by a sausage.





SWB on the art of positive thinking

When it comes to optimism, and looking on the bright side, I’d be the least likely candidate to spring to mind, wouldn’t you think? But this morning I was tasked with chatting to Frank on U105 about channelling positivity, of all things. I was an odd choice, given that I write ‘The Sour Wee Blog,’ but paradoxically, it’s exactly because of this that I was asked me to contribute, because being aware of my mindset, I actively seek out ways to cope when all seems bleak. Indeed, it’s my only defence to keep the proverbial ‘Black Dog’ from the door, and it would be easy, wouldn’t it, to fall into a collective gloom as we begin a New Year.

Over Christmas, the joy of the season was so much at odds with the atrocities reported daily on the news, that I felt a jarring sense of doom and unease. But by allowing myself to rest up a bit and read books by the fire, I felt myself replenished, and sufficiently energized enough to do parkrun and yoga classes, and as such, my mood lifted a little. And now, as work beckons and it’s time to take down the tree and stash away the glittery outfits for another year, I find myself clinging to the magic, and want to keep the glowing embers aflame. In Sweden it’s the custom to keep the lights on until the 13th January, and I don’t begrudge our Scandi neighbours a thing, because they’ve a long auld winter to plough through. Keep the decorations up for a while, if that’s what you want.! While we plan to take our tree to Kinedale Donkey Sanctuary on Saturday, LSB won’t be clambering up to remove the outdoor lights for at least another week.


Small wins are a must for me, whether it’s keeping up my streak on Duolingo, making dinner from scratch or putting the cork back in the bottle of wine to avoid a hangover, (mornings are tough enough in winter.) It’s taking time to drink tea from a favourite cup with a homemade truffle, or meeting a pal for a latte. Having things to look forward to is crucial, so I’m making plans for a weekend away with friends, and in November I thought ahead and planted a rake of tulips for some spring blooms. These are all small things, but added together they become significant.

When the news is very grim indeed, one could easily fall into a pit of despair. But it’s not terribly helpful, is it? Running about with a face like a DUP-er at their first same sex wedding isn’t going to change anything, other than irritate the life out of those around me. LSB got me on to the Stoics a while ago, and my main take-away was trying not to excessively worry about things I can’t control. I’ve agonised over the news in the past, so much so that I was rendered unable to deal with day to day life. No good came from my angst, and it certainly didn’t make me any more productive.


This doesn’t mean that I don’t tune into the news, but I’m not doom scrolling or getting into debates on Facebook or X. Truly, that way madness lies. Rather I’m trying to focus the inspirational stuff. Might I recommend this piece of joy by Anita Chauduri in the Guardian, and Myke Bartlett on the Stoics. And finally, I felt incredibly humbled to read an article about the Ukrainian film-maker and war reporter Msytlav Chernov, whose film ’20 days in Mauripol’ was released in October. Despite documenting the tragedies which unfolded when the Russians relentlessly pounded the city with bombs, he kept working in a place from which most people have fled. And this is what stuck with me; he said that no matter what they endured, no one was alone, there was always someone there, offering support. He concluded, ‘I find that incredibly hopeful.’ Well. If I can’t shake myself out of a stupor then, it’s a pretty poor state of affairs. Chins up everyone!