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marie Kondo


SWB on the Marie Kondo Craze

Right, fess up everyone. Who’s been watching Marie Kondo Tidies Up on Netflix? I’ll admit, I’ve found it hard to resist, but I’ve limited myself to two and a half episodes. I don’t have time to WATCH people tidy, I just need to get on it. I fear it might be a bit like cookery programmes-  thinking yes, I’ll DEFINITELY make that, but I don’t, since everyone likes my Chinese Beef in Ginger so why would I risking something different? I tend to salivate more over the glorious décor than the recipes anyway. I felt so CHEATED when I learnt that Nigella Lawson wasn’t creating her shredded lamb and pomegranate salad in her West London Pad, but in a set at Elstree studios in Hertfordshire.

I digress.  For the uninitiated, Kondo has taken herself off to America, land of excess, to bring her tidy tips to those who’ve accumulated a lifetime’s worth of shite. In she swoops, like an elfin Fairy Godmother, to help them rediscover who they ‘really are’, through binning  their stuff. There are many cringe-worthy bits: the worst of which being the ‘group prayer,’ where they kneel and honour THE HOUSE to give thanks for its presence in their lives and apologise for not recognising its worth. I don’t know why I’m surprised; this is a woman who feels it’s shameful to pair socks. (I may have expressed my annoyance about this before.)

Lest you think I’m exaggerating, here’s a bit of Kondo rumination on the appropriate treatment of hosiery:

Socks and Stockings
Some people think it doesn’t really matter if they wear socks with holes in them or tights that are pilled, but this is like declaring ‘today doesn’t really matter’. Your feet bear your weight and help you live your life, and it is your socks that cradle those feet. The socks you wear at home are particularly important because they are the contact point between you and your house, so choose ones that will make the time you spend there even more enjoyable.

Balling your socks and stockings, or tying them into knots, is cruel. Please put an end to this practice today.

See? Told you she was barking. The other irritating bit is when someone, often Kondo herself, falls over a pile of tat, to much hilarity. ‘Babe, we just have too much stuff!’ exclaimed one particularly irksome woman, after taking a tumble. I could just imagine the director staging the whole thing to inject some liveliness into proceedings, since Kondo has all the personality of one of those socks she’s so keen in folding.

The format is thus: in she trots, with lots of insincere ‘semi-hugging’, and cuddling of any infants who happen to be knocking about. (‘I’m the nice lady who’s going to put all your toys in the bin and teach you a new game called ‘organising’.) She then tries not to look absolutely appalled by the clip of the place.

I urge you to watch Episode Two, which features a deranged  American-Japanese couple.  God love them. They didn’t need Kondo, they needed a lifetime of therapy and an in-house Relate Counsellor. A more beleaguered looking husband you’d be hard pressed to find. The wife, who created the biggest mountain of clothing that Kondo had ever clapped eyes on, actually admitted that she shopped when he pissed her off so she could ‘hit him where it hurt.’ Fuck me.

Now that I’ve got thinking about what annoys me I can’t stop. I was apoplectic when I saw about 15 bags of clothes  deemed ‘trash’ while another pile was destined for ‘good will’. Seriously? Up rocked the dumpster truck and off it went for landfill.  And what had Kondo got to say about that? Feck all, so long as it was out of the way.

Happily, I think we’re doing better here in Ireland.  When I dropped off very raggedy clothes into the Barnardo’s bins at Ormeau Recycling Centre, three of them were overflowing, which was heartening.

Thus to conclude, while I find her sanctimonious and irritating in the extreme, I concede that Kondo has a point. If we can move away from the mindset that stuff equals happiness, and make more conscious decisions about our purchases, we’ll be more content. I get it. Just don’t expect to me posting drawer-fuls of tee-shirts standing to attention. I’ve already got a lot of hobbies already, and folding ain’t going to become another one.



SWB on the new stars of Instagram

Haven’t I gone and got myself hooked on Instagram. And once again, I am plumbing the depths of banality, because I am watching video after video of CLEANING HABITS. The old me wouldn’t have understood why anyone would watch a randomer scrub their toilet. What levels of stultifying boredom would you have to reach, I’d have wondered, before you’d willingly observe someone dust their skirting boards? And yet, every day Instagram is helpfully suggesting new people for me to follow, the likes of @TidyDad and @nonstopmumma. The algorithms tell me that I need to follow any account with ‘washy-washy scrub scrub’ as their tag-line, and reels pop up with stupidly enthusiastic women (almost always women) saying: ‘come clear your plughole with me!’ You may not think this is the most tantalising of click bait but there I am, all, ‘Would you believe the shine off that stainless steel sink! Behold the gleam of that hob!!


I know we’re all suckers for a ‘before and after’ post, and I can understand how we could be excited to witness the radical transformation of say, a lovely living room, but tidying a desk? Sprucing up the ensuite? Really? Who’s going to hand over their valuable time to watch that? Well, me, as it happens. And clearly, I’m not alone, given the thousands of followers clocked up by these cleaning gurus. They are the superstars of Insta, their microphones replaced by mops and their guitars with tubes of grout-buster.


Frankly I’m amazed, but maybe it just sums up how small my world has shrunk since Covid, and how happy I am to keep it that way. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not a natural housekeeper. I find everything a struggle, from stocking my cupboards with essentials or keeping the surfaces clear for more than ten seconds. It runs in my family. Anytime I heard the hoover when I was a child I asked, ‘Who’s coming?’ LSB is as bad. He sends me little messages when I’m at work, listing his accomplishments. ‘Dishwasher empty!’ he will declare, or ‘Towel wash on!’ I’ll reply with the clapping hands emojis, with no trace of irony since I’m delighted that he’s taking the initiative. Let’s face it, it’s no given that I’ll do it any time soon.


Perhaps these videos work because they offer clarity. I have a shocking habit of over-complicating everything, whether that be washing up or cooking, you can bet your nelly that I’ll make it more of a ball-ache than it needs to be. This tendency of mine only serves to impede progress, of course. I think in a very binary fashion, assuming that we are either good or bad at housework and that I fall into the latter category. I can’t accept that we can just develop habits and routines and try to adhere to them, at least some of the time.


The tyranny of housework has of course been exacerbated by the pets, quadrupling the work load as I rinse out food tines, lint-roller the chairs and mop and spray when one of them takes a surprise poo somewhere. Always a joy. Now I’m also running round scooping up the bowls after they eat. I wouldn’t want anyone falling into Tilly’s dish and suffering cuts and bruises.


So for a person like me, who struggles and gets distracted easily, a motivational video seems to help. If I have to watch someone hoovering their sofa in real time to simplify it for me, then maybe these videos serve a purpose. Provided of course, that I don’t just get suckered in to scrolling through Insta for two hours. That’s a whole other challenge. But the truth is, that yes, a clean house is actually possible, if I just take fifteen minutes here and there and get on with it. And do you know what else occurred to me, (and then I’ll stop chuntering on), but I always take the piss out of Marie Kondo, but when I saw those boys cleaning up the stadiums at the World Cup I was so impressed. I started reading all about Japanese rituals and how they respect their spaces and take pride in them and I thought to myself, my children have a lot to learn! And me too, I have a lot to learn. I love my house, and I love having people in to it, so maybe I should try to enjoy caring for it. Does that sound mad? Probably yes, but I’m sure you’re used to me now.


SWB gets buttered up

Buttery pens. Buttery effing pens. That’s what I was up against this morning. I had dropped the children to school, giving the dog her morning walk in the process. Two birds, one stone- I was winning already. Yesterday I had bought myself a vegan breakfast pot from Kaffe-o in preparation for a good start to the day. LSB bought a filter coffee pot recently so I had a second cup of freshly brewed @Boden Park single roast to look forward to. I opened up my leather bound pink diary with gold embossed flamingos to make a few notes but then couldn’t find a pen. I remembered putting some in the pocket of my handbag for handiness and reached in to lift one out. My hand was met with a greasy, buttery mess. Fuck, I said.

How, you would be entitled to think, could that happen? I will explain. As you know by now, I don’t like waste. In coffee shops, when they give you three little pats of butter wrapped in foil when two will suffice, I pocket the third, fearing that all 25g of dairy goodness will be dumped, and putting butter in the bin is, IMHO, a crime.

It wouldn’t be happening to Marie Kondo though, I’m telling you. No, the crime in her book, would be coming home and firing the handbag down on a chair and neglecting to extract all its contents in an orderly fashion before placing the bag in its ‘special place.’ There’d be no forgetting about the butter and leaving it to melt and coat all one’s new pens in a rancid sludge.

So there you are. As well as cleaning up a pool of greyhound piss this morning because the cat sat blocking the back door and being the deferential type, the dog decided to go and piss in the living room instead,  , I also had butter-encrusted pens in pastel hues to clean. Later, you may notice a photo on Instagram, of my diary and pens and coffee. It will be intended to look as though I am an organised sort of a person. But you won’t be deceived, for you will know the truth.


SWB Scrapes the Barrel

Right, so today I’m talking cleaning. Yes, cleaning and tidying and all that household nonsense. I realise that this may be risky, and you would be quite entitled to think, ‘what depths of banality will that woman not plumb?

But it feels like every time I chat to friends, we take a collective sigh when we think of the state of chaos into which our homes have descended. Over Lockdown I have looked around and often felt an acute sense of nausea. Granted, some of this has been my own fault. It was me, for example, who wanted a dog, despite knowing full well that it would lead to a messier home and less time to clean it because of pet related duties. I brought that on myself. I didn’t, however, bring about the triple whammy of home-schooling, my own work situation, and keeping a family clean, (ish) nourished (somewhat) and entertained (occasionally).

Some people are just naturally quite tidy. Neither my husband or myself fall into that category, and it would seem that our progeny follow suit, except they’re ten times worse, the little s**ts.

I’ve decided to accept that there’s more chance of Bernie Ecclestone making it to his child’s graduation ceremony than there is of me getting (and keeping) my whole house to an acceptable level: so instead I will just focus on a couple of areas. I need a some places where I can retreat without taking something akin to a panic attack.

Last year I visited a friend of mine and was upset to see that her living space was pristine and devoid of accumulated shite in all the corners. (VERY bad Feng Shui, apparently, cluttering your corners).  She has two teenage boys, works full-time and owns a dog. I was affronted. I wondered briefly if we could still be friends.

‘How the f**k do you manage this?’ I asked.

‘The rest of the house is a bombshell,’ she said. ‘Don’t even think about going up the stairs.’

‘Phew,’ I thought to myself. ‘That’s the girl I know and love.’

If you’re short on time and jangly of nerves, my sagacious friend suggests, that you keep one area tidy, and make it the place where you spend most of your time. Like myself, my pal has a kitchen/dinner/den set-up, and all of it was lovely. My expectations aren’t that high. I can’t manage to keep my dining table clear, and a week after school has ended, it still groans under the weight of books, colouring paraphernalia and God knows what else. But I’m getting increasingly ratty with the children if they leave their truck around the living area, especially in the evening when I’m counting down the seconds until it’s unwind-on-the-sofa-time. Marie Kondo wouldn’t be standing for any of their nonsense.

Then there’s the island, where crockery jostles with bills and newspapers and wineglasses that don’t fit in the dishwasher. It is where hope comes to die. But we have decided to adopt a ‘clear island’ policy, and are trying to keep it clear. That way, if at least two surfaces are free of crap my nerves feel less ragged. So if the island is swept clean and the coffee table is home to nothing but a scented candle, I can just divert my eyes from the catastrophe that is the rest.

My policy in the front room is just to keep the door closed. I can’t bear it right now and I’m not venturing in for another week to start cleaning. The same goes for the downstairs bedroom. They are too awful to contemplate as the girls have annexed them as play areas and they are littered with their detritus: Lego, lots and lots of Lego.

Now I can’t possibly sign off without mentioning toilets. As you know, the Mothership is keen on inspecting the level of cleanliness of my toilets and then passing comment before donning gloves and reaching for the Domestos. I’ve never had much success with keeping the sheen of the bowl up to her lofty standards.

‘It’s coming that time,’ I said to LSB earlier. ‘Restrictions are lifting and she’ll be back in and may have a stroke when she sees sees the limescale situation upstairs. I don’t want that on my conscience.’

Now as I’ve mentioned in that past, Himself is a great fella for leaving the housework to me, but didn’t he get out his phone and start googling ‘Top Tips for Toilet Cleaning’. The next thing he was heading up the stairs armed with baking soda, vinegar and a scourer. I came back from a walk in Ormeau Park and the glean off the loo nearly blinded me.  I think he felt that he had to atone for swilling pints most of the weekend, and so this cleaning spree was his penance. Either way, I’m not complaining: two clear surfaces and a sparkling toilet and it’s only Monday evening. And the pubs and eateries are open again. Hurrah.










SWB hits the Charity Shops

Last weekend I opened up my Mac and up popped a window decreeing: ‘Groundhog Day’. No shit, I thought ruefully, sure isn’t that every day? This month has been long and dark, and the logistics of working full-time, imposing some sense of order on my house and acting as PA and Chief Entertainment Officer to my offspring, is proving hard to manage. Balls are being dropped all over the show. Friends have been neglected, appointments missed, and many are the chores left unfinished.

I was in puerile form altogether last week and thought that urgent action was required. I needed a pleasant Friday evening to obliterate all thoughts of Brexit, embrace frivolity and make room for joy. Isn’t that a brilliant phrase? It could be the title for my memoir: ‘How a Sour Wee Bastard Made Room for Joy.’ I don’t think it would exactly fly off the shelves though, as folk may find the juxtaposition too hard to fathom and assume I was either a sanctimonious twat, or a more rotund and decidedly less effectual Marie Kondo.

Back to Friday night. I did some yoga (which was very joyful) and then met my friend Arlene for a tipple and a Chinese meal. In we trotted to The Northern Lights first where we met a large shaggy haired lurcher. ‘This is what I LOVE about this lace,’ I gushed. ‘You get to drink some wine AND stroke a lovely dog.’

‘You and I are VERY different,’ said my friend, who doesn’t share my enthusiasm regarding the animals, either in or out of a drinking establishment.

We caught up over a Sauvignon Blanc before making our way down towards Macau by the bridge. But en route, as we passed the Concern Charity Shop, what should I spy but something that looked suspiciously like a bed pan, set prominently in the window. We had been walking at quite an accelerated pace since I heard that Macau did wonderful deep fried aubergine and I was keen to get stuck in. ‘Hang on there,’ I said to Arlene. ‘I need to get another look. Perhaps my eyes have deceived me.’

My eyes, however, had not. It was indeed a bed pan, although labelled (incorrectly I think), as a ‘Ceramic Vintage Douche’, selling for the princely sum of £10. ‘Who?’ I stuttered. ‘Why?’

‘You need to find out,’ said Arlene, ‘I need to know the rationale behind this decision.’

‘What sort of a person,’ I mused, ‘starts into their January clear-out, finds a bed pan, and thinks, “I’ll just drop this down to the charity shop.’’

‘What next?’ said Arlene. ‘A vibrator? ‘Just one previous careful owner?’’

How we chuckled.

That made me think of my first car, a lovely Nissan Micra, red in hue and dinky, like a motorised ladybird. It had ‘one careful lady owner,’ who only ever drove it between Bangor and Donaghadee. It was pristine when I got it and remained that way for all of 10 minutes until I rammed it into my parent’s back gate and later into a bottle bank at the old Co-op on the Lisburn Road. ‘Oh, I am vexed,’ The Mothership, used to say, upon seeing the latest dent. We called it ‘The Sour Car’, for obvious reasons.

We were still talking about the bed pan as we tucked into our pork dumplings. ‘It’s quite a personal item, though isn’t it, to give in to a charity shop?’ said my pal.

I nodded vigorously. ‘I can’t imagine saying, as I ‘Marie Kondo’d my house: ‘here’s a dress I’ll never squeeze into again; a Denby cup and saucer and oh, that bed pan I have kicking about under the bed.’

‘Some weirdo might buy it though for other uses,’ she said.

‘Like what?’ I said, hastily swallowing down a mouthful of wine lest I choke.

‘Did you not read about that post which almost brought down Mumsnet?’

I shook my head, oblivious to this altogether.

‘You know, the husband who had a post-coital clean-up routine involving a beaker, which prompted his wife to post a message asking if this was normal behaviour?’

My eyes widened. I definitely hadn’t heard of this, for I’m sure I would have remembered.

‘It’s a very funny read,’ said my friend. ‘Be sure to check it out.’

We got back to the Ormeau bed pan. She suggested that I purchase it and put it to immediate use as a planter for some geraniums. ‘It could be a short story,’ she said. ‘From the point of view of a bed pan. ‘Living My Best Life’ you could call it, with before and after photos.’

So on Saturday morning, despite feeling the effects of the previous evening’s exuberance, down I trotted to ‘Concern’ see if it was still in the window. And yes, there it was, nestled under a china tea set, a box of spoons and a blue tinkly bell. It’s been a while since I’ve had a good root round a charity shop, as my return to work has put paid to such excursions. This was a worthwhile venture, however, as I picked up a spangly top, a pink woolly jumper, a Nora Ephron book and a jigsaw for the children, (complete, I’d like to add, as there ought to be a dark corner of hell for anyone who considers it acceptable to donate a puzzle minus a few pieces)

As I paid up, I asked the gentleman on the till about the bedpan. ‘There’s an item in the window labelled ‘a vintage douche’ and I just wondered if you anything about it?’ He looked at me quizzically.  ‘A what?’ he said.

‘Well it’s labelled a ‘douche’, but I think it’s just a bed pan,’ I said. He raised an eyebrow and said that he’d have to see it for himself. Out he trotted after me. ‘No idea where that came from,’ he said. ‘I only work here on a Saturday.’ Do you think it will sell?’ I asked.

‘Goodness yes, he replied. ‘People always buy this sort of thing. Anything useful goes very quickly.’

He was very pleasant, the man, and seemed quite amused by my line of inquiry. I do like Concern, although it can be pricier than other charity shops along the Ormeau. One gets more of a bargain in The Hospice Shop, as indeed I did, a few minutes later, picking up an M&S leopard print skirt or £3.25. Once, in Concern, I lifted a pair of roller boots for my Older Child. They were £8, which seemed to come as quite a shock to the elderly gent behind the till.  He said, and I quote, ‘Jesus Christ, I thought you were meant to get a bargain in here,’ and gave them to me for a fiver.

So there you are folks. What I want to know is this: would any of you good people either think to heave a bed pan into a charity shop, should one be  lurking on your premises, or would you be inclined to buy one? I’m not convinced this particular pan was worth a tenner by the way, but you may strike lucky and get an understanding chap when you go to make your purchase. It looked in need of a good scrub too, although any residual urine, could, I suppose, bring on the growth of any potential herbs or plants. You know me- always looking for the sunny side….


SWB declutters her head

The Mothership has been up, collecting children from school, putting them over their sums, browning pans of mince on the stove and boiling potatoes. She and my Dad come once a week and try to restore order to our home, where teetering piles of paperwork, clothes and what Marie Kondo refers to as ‘kimono’ and I call ‘shite’, graces every worktop and flat surface. The tip, apparently, to a decluttered home, is keeping flat surfaces clear. I could do that, if I had a PA, but since I don’t, and am unlikely ever to be in such a position, I shall probably be found dead one day, under a pile of mismatched socks and unopened statements from Mastercard.

While sipping a cup of tea so scalding that it would take the throat off an average person, The Mothership becomes highly animated.

‘Disagreeable, Helen, not ‘unagreeable’, there’s no such word.’

I look bewildered. I’m just in the door and am still coat-clad and Sherpa-like, carrying my handbag, bookbag, and the basket I take for my lunch.

Seeing my confusion, she elaborates.

‘Your last blog post; that was just one of several mistakes I detected. We were taught those prefixes in school- you wouldn’t have caught us getting that wrong, would you Ronnie?’

My dad shakes his head. ‘Indeed you wouldn’t,’ he says.

‘What you need,’ she goes on, ‘is an editor.’

‘I’m not Marian Keyes,’ I say, divesting myself of garments while accepting hugs from small people as I edge closer to the teapot.

‘No, and you’re not likely to be either, if you keep making mistakes like that,’ she says, acerbically.

‘What I suggest,’ she goes on, ‘is that you give me your password for the blog and I’ll go in and vet everything, before its unleashed upon the general public.’

‘What’s that you say?’ She now has my full attention.

‘You obviously can’t proof-read it yourself, you’ve made that much obvious,’ she continues, ‘and your sentences are FAR TOO long. They would be greatly improved by the use of the semi-colon.’

‘I do use semi-colons!’ I say indignantly.

‘Sure just write it down there, your password, and I’ll set to it this evening,’ she says, handing me a child’s Newsletter from school. ‘Pop it down on the back of that.’

‘Flipping sure I won’t,’ I say.

Can you imagine it? God only knows what she’d be putting up, and she’d have all my ‘fucks’ and ‘shites’ replaced by ‘Heaven’s above!’ and ‘Goodness gracious.’ It wouldn’t read like my blog at all.

‘Start your own blog!’ I say. ‘YOU see how easy it is to update it and proof read it and try not to offend anyone who may recognise themselves and never speak to you again.’

There is a ruminative silence while she drinks her tea.

She is right though- there is no time, especially if you’ve spent the last two Saturdays at the Aspects Festival in Bangor, learning from the best what it takes to craft a novel.  We looked at ‘My name is Lucy Barton’ by Elizabeth Strout and ‘Travelling in a Strange Land’ by David Park under the judicious eye of Patsy Horton from Blackstaff Press. They were both short novels but covered epic themes of love and loss and quiet desolation. They struck me deeply and the sessions afforded me the opportunity to do what I love best- dissecting a text; delving into its themes and identifying what made it singular; what made it come alive. I was a member of a book group for many years and loved it dearly, however, without a curator asking the right questions, it quickly became a brief chat about the novel and a excellent opportunity to drink merlot. This workshop therefore appealed to my inner geek, and I left feeling enriched and thrilled to have met some delightful folk.

The downside though, to spending your Saturdays doing literary things, is that you’re short of time for the banal but necessary tasks of homemaking. You forget things, like checking pockets and then popping fleeces into the washing machine with a packet of open Oreos in them. (LSB was not pleased about the soggy end his biscuits met.) We’ve spent most of Sunday cleaning and shopping and getting our shit together and yet I still feel the overwhelm acutely and the tension needling at my temples like sharp pins.

But you can’t give it all up can you? The soul must be fed, and if that means you have to hoover bits of dried Oreos out of your tumble drier, then so be it. And if anyone knows an editor willing to work pro bono then let me know, but herself’s not getting her hands on that password; no sirree.

*I decided to do this course at the last moment and LSB immediately had his phone out to order me the books from Amazon. ‘Stop right there!’ I said, and rang Books Paper Scissors on the Stranmillis Road instead. They confirmed that they had the books and Himself trotted over on his lunch hour to get them. Expedient, local, and not run by money grabbing corporate bastards; I’d much rather give these guys my custom .



SWB on the Zara dress

‘Here,’ I said to The Mothership, showing her a photo. ‘What do you make of this outfit?’ I’m interested to see her reaction to the statement dress of the summer: the Zara spotty one that has become an Instagram sensation. Her response was typically verbose.

‘That’s a Dress?’ she asks.  ‘Looks more like a night dress to me, for an older person! Worse, actually- more like a hospital gown.  Mind you, my friend was going into Menarys the other day and there was, what she thought, was a rail of nightdresses by the doorway.  Turned out they were all dresses! Maybe it’s a new trend so you can go to the supermarket in your night wear and no one will be any the wiser!!’

For once we are completely in agreement. I had started reading an article on The Guardian on-line, and thought, ‘I may get myself one of these yokes, it sounds the business,’ until I saw it and was distinctly underwhelmed when I saw the picture.

‘It’s kind of shapeless, isn’t it?’ I said.

‘It is,’ says The Mothership. ‘and drab.’

‘Insipid,’ I reply.

‘Nondescript,’ she goes on.

‘Wish washy’ chirps up LSB, who’s sitting in the corner and even though he hasn’t seen the dress is keen to join in the fun.

‘The thing about style,’ opines The Mothership,‘is that a lot of people just don’t have any. I was down the street the other day, and I said to your dad, ‘Would you look at the cut of those jeans that woman has on?’ ‘Sure they’re more hole than jean,’ he replied. ‘And he was right too.’

‘But in the dress’s defence,’ I say, ‘at least it’s not fitted. No one needs a fitted frock after a week in an all-inclusive hotel.’

‘I suppose,’ she conceded. ‘It would actually be very good for concealing a plump tum.’

‘Hmmmm.’ I said, feeling that this was a tad pointed at me and my portliness. My excesses have clearly not gone unnoticed.

However, we were talking ourselves round to the dress rightly.

‘It’s airy too,’ I went on.  I could have done with airiness in Palma I can tell you. Readers, I kid you not- the heat in Mallorca was a killer; I can usually cope valiantly, especially if I have poolside access to mojitos, but this was relentless. Even at breakfast I was perspiring into my coffee, most unbecoming it was. ‘Maybe it’s the menopause,’ I said to LSB, mopping my glistening face with a napkin.‘It’s 34º’ he said. ‘Would you give over.’

On the last evening of our holiday we took the foolish decision to go for a Mexican. (I mean, who the hell thinks that jalapeños are a wise idea when it would roast you alive?  Us, apparently.) Just for good measure the red tiles on the floor had absorbed all the heat during the day and they radiated an intense glow upwards, sending sweat running down the backs of my legs in rivulets. Like a fool I ordered a margarita and it came with salt AND chilli around the rim, which was just plain cruel. I still drank it obviously, but it didn’t make me any better  company, as LSB would readily attest. He truly did earn his acronym on this trip.

Back to the dress.

Thus in such temperatures, a floaty garment, should you choose a maxi over a midi dress, is a wise choice to waft a bit of air around. In addition, to this, I appreciate that this frock could be styled up or down as the occasion demands; and at £40 if you’re talking cost per wear, you’re on to a winner. I’m currently trying to apply the ’30 wears rule’ when I buy anything new (or second hand) and it’s saving me a fortune.

So here was my take on the polka-dot hit of the summer. I dug out a black dress I bought yonks ago in TK Maxx and wore it with my new favourite pendant- my astronaut necklace from Liberty Blue. If I’d listened to Marie Kondo, I’d have chucked this frock long ago because I bought it when I was postnatally depressed and it brought me no joy whatsoever, but then again, neither did anything else, so I can’t hold that against it. However I refused to ditch it and it’s now enjoying a revival. Occasionally there are benefits to being a hoarder.

So may I ask, in the interests of pure nosiness, if any of my Sour Wee Readers own the polka-dot Zara dress which I’ve just slated? If so, I offer profuse apologies and I’m sure you carry it off very well. There’s actually something most endearing about it, and I’m always thrilled to see a fashion item which is kind to you when you’ve been on on the wine and crisps.

(Photo credit must go to the lovely Amberlea from @starlingstart)



SWB on January and Charity Shopping

It’s the third week in January, when statistics indicate we will have abandoned our New Year’s Resolutions, be dreading the credit card bill and be cursing the grey skies and present cold snap. Mind you, I’m relieved to feel the chill because, no word of a lie, three weeks ago I saw what looked suspiciously like blackberries ripening in the brambles outside Forestside.  Global warming isn’t just imminent: it’s here, upon us and scaring the s**t clean out of me.

Thus do we remain apathetic, or make some tweaks to our consumerist habits and do the world a favour? We do the latter people! No point sitting around getting depressed, no Sirree. On Friday morning I took a trot down the Ormeau and partook of a fine coffee with a friend in Root and Branch. It’s a jolly place isn’t it, if you don’t mind channelling your inner hipster and thinking ‘less is more’ with your thimble sized cup. I’m helping my pal run a pub quiz for Tour Guide NI, a fledgling business, organising local events for tourists. I’ve never been a quiz master before but I’ve been to enough to know what makes a really bad one. We’ve all sat through some abysmal quiz with an entire round devoted to soap operas (BOKE) and another one based upon obscure geographical facts that no one has any notion about and a collective gloom descends. The WORST is when the compere feels they’ve missed out their role in life as a comedian, and attempts humour instead of getting on with the rounds. Excruciating.

Now, if there’s one benefit to the new Netflix show: ‘Marie Kondo Tidies’ it’s that there’s fabulous buys to be found in charity shops, since the masses are leaping upon the band wagon and f**king out anything which doesn’t ‘spark joy’. The phenomenon has reached the Ormeau, if ‘The Hospice Shop’ and ‘Concern’ are anything to go by. I was tempted by Chanel inspired classics, 50’s inspired glamour and boho chic kimono pieces. I settled on a frock which looked every bit Desigual but from a company I’d never heard tell of. The lovely lady in The Hospice Shop told me that they find it hard to shift dresses and skirts. I just don’t understand- the stuff is gorgeous. And do you know who needs bright pretty ensembles? Teachers, that’s who. Kids love a bit of glam- who wants to sit looking at someone clad in beige or black, especially wee primary school kids who look at the same person all day. We had a geography teacher in school who was the personification of bland: her clothes were wishy washy and she was zero craic to boot. The Mothership, who used to sub-teach (ever since ditching her job to go gallivanting round Africa) and always chose her work clothes with tremendous care. I remember her looking out quirky pieces of jewellery and selecting lovely outfits since her lecturer at Stranmillis had said, ‘children like that sort of thing.’ She had a ring which looked like an eye that the wee boys in particular loved staring at it.

I recall too, that once you’ve worn a jacket into work and lugged around a few dirty old books, and had wee kids coughing and sneezing all over you; that your clothes get past their best very quickly. One therefore resents shelling out a fortune, and who wants to support fast fashion with all those dyes and micro-plastics flooding the rivers in Bangladesh. 

So to cheer up a mizzly morning, take yourself down the Ormeau. Craic was ninety in the shops and you can sate your inner shopaholic guilt free. Check out my new ensemble (minus the shoes which I wouldn’t last 10 minutes in. I’m clumsy enough without heels, even if they are beaut.) Another top tip, if you happening to be organising a PTA event or pub quiz and are looking prizes, is to have a gander at all the loot IN the charity shops, and pick them up at a bargain price. You could make up all sorts of goody bags and create some much sought after and original raffle prizes. Plus, you’d have a fun morning outing. You see? January isn’t so bad after all…


SWB on saving lambs from the slaughter

‘Hurry up, HURRY UP! COME ON!’ That was the small child this morning, anxious to get off to school. The older one was fiddling with hair clips and wrestling on her shoes. This enthusiasm for leaving the house is not the norm, but today is the Easter jumble sale, and the excitement in the air is palpable. Last year tempers flared when I secretly packed off a small basket that I’d been tripping over for months, and a small boy bought it. ‘Declan bought my basket!’ wailed the older child, puce with indignation. ‘What will I do my Easter hunt with?’ This year we selected some items together, to prevent similar fall-outs.  This explains  why my husband has a lamb in his pocket. It was initially in the bag but they changed their mind at the last minute and home it was sent on Monday to be forever treasured. ‘You can buy ONE thing, and that’s IT, I warn them, as I drop them off.


Their classroom assistant overhears and comes running. She knows all about my aversion to clutter. (She must have read the Marie Kondo one where I gave off).  ‘I’ve kept them a nice big bag for all their goodies!’ she says, with a mischievous gleam in her eye. ‘One year,’ she goes on, ‘the sale was over and there was still MOUNDS of stuff left. Mrs Clarke just opened the doors and yelled, “It’s all free!” Some kids went home with bin-bags.’


Dear God. I think I might actually die if anymore trash arrives in our house. At half-term we spent A DAY, no word of a lie, A DAY in the children’s bedroom. Lifting, hoovering, folding, sorting, purging. Well, not so much of a purge as a ‘reshuffle.’ ‘We’re filling this bag,’ I declared. ‘Pop in some toys and say “Bye! See you at Easter!”’ I duly produced a cerise House of Fraser bag and in went about twenty dolls and cuddly toys, who are currently residing in a downstairs cupboard. I did this a year ago but the forgot all about them. The little buggers then tearfully told their grandparents that I had given away one particular bunny of which they were very fond. Granny went straight out and bought them a new bun each, so we gained two instead of reducing the pile.


So here are two tips to help you whittle down your mountains of random plastic crap.


  1. Get on that WhatsApp group and suggest that instead of a present at the birthday parties, it should be the class policy to give a fiver in a handmade card. That way, you can oversee what your children buy, in a toyshop of your choice, and because they’re probably too small to know the price of things, squirrel away the rest in their bank accounts, so they can blow it on something equally unsuitable when they’re eighteen.


  1. Sticking to the party theme, hunt out all your plastic tat such as toys from McDonalds; remnants from other parties which they won at ‘pass the parcel’; and those bits of plastic rubbish which come stuck to children’s magazines. Instead of handing out party bags full of Haribo shit to send them hyper and rot their teeth, let the small revellers choose their own piece of nonsense from your giant sack of cast-offs. I did this at our P1 party recently and the parents thought it was genius. I could see their eyes light up as they finally saw a home for all their accumulated dross.


Happy Easter to you all, and I hope you have more luck than me keeping your houses in order over the festivities.


*Names have been changed to protect identities 😉


SWB jumps on the Supper Club bandwagon


One new thing a month: that’s the task I set myself when I took the career break. The year out turned into two and I’m thrilled to say that come mid-August this summer, instead of dragging myself back to the chalk face, I’m heading to Spain on hols instead. So as my third year out approaches I’ve stayed loyal to my resolution of doing new things. And this month it was an ambitious one, to host a supper club, from the SWB residence, no less.


Broaching this with LSB (My husband, Long Suffering Bastard for any new readers) required some tactical manoeuvring. I sneakily waited until he was at a wedding in Liverpool and rang him the day after, when he was feeling less than sprightly. His resistance was lowered, and I could sense him shaking his head and acquiescing into his hair-of-the-dog pint. The last time he went away he ended up taking me for a slap-up lunch in Balloo House, followed by a visit to a woman who re-homes cats in Killyleagh. He came home with a lighter wallet and small tortoiseshell cat. An evening in the company of randomers sounded perhaps less daunting, and certainly required less commitment.


“You’re doing what? A nutter, that’s what you are.” That was the reaction from most of my friends and acquaintances when I told them. “That’s a bit strange, isn’t it?” said another. “Like how many, ten strangers, sitting in your own house?” He shook his head in disbelief. “Wouldn’t catch me doing that.” “Look,” I wish I’d replied, “I’m not lying naked on a table and letting them eat sushi from my less than perfect form. I’m roping a couple of friends in and cooking a meal for some people to come and hopefully enjoy.” So we planned it, did it, and you know what, we’d do it again. It was brilliant craic and no one got poisoned or got hammered and wrecked the joint or was insulted or offended (I think). People came on their own but left in twos and threes to walk down the road together or share lifts. Everyone laughed. A lot. Not enough laugher these days.


Mind you I wasn’t laughing mid-week when, distracted listening to my hyper off-spring I burnt my rice and fucked up the main course entirely. My friends, (valiant guinea pigs that they were) tried to be supportive about the bland chicken they were fed. “What made you choose a Lebanese theme?” they enquired, tactfully. “You know,when you’ll admit yourself that it’s not your forte?” Well I blame the Guardian weekend magazine. There are only so many Ottelenghi recipes you can read before you start getting z’atar and pomegranate molasses on the brain. I had a fine cauliflower salad in Kaffe O one day and I thought to myself, I have to get into this Middle Eastern Cookery lark. So a plan started to form and between a few of us we made it happen.

My mum raided her cupboards for extra tablecloths and napkins and provided matching glasses. (You see Marie Kondo? This is why you dn’t go fecking everything in the bin). Claire (the other half of Supper Club) took her children to Botanic Rose Garden and collected a selection of rose petals to dress the table. There were trial runs and and more trial runs.


On the night itself LSB was roped in to keep the children off side and the French au pair did something special with potatoes. Once we’d removed the rice (and the children) from the equation it was grand. But the real star of the show is my friend Claire, one half of Harper’s Yard. I post about Claire and Martina often on my Facebook page because I have the greatest respect for them. Being a self-deprecating Irish woman I think “Ooooh, that would be a good idea,” then I think of everything that could go wrong with the plan and talk myself out of it sharpish. But these two are different. Claire’s English and Martina’s from the Czech Republic. They have a quiet confidence about them and are happy to give something their best shot.  Must importantly, their gift for doing things well is infectious.  On the night itself, my chicken was neither bland nor stringy.


So, we had eleven people round our table on Saturday evening, and what a diverse and international group we got. A Greek, an American, an English girl, a Chilean, and one brave man who came with his wife and had the best of craic. Two of my friends came which was lovely because it gave me a bit of encouragement to see two familiar faces, but to be honest, even had they not it still would have been fine.


One guest, the lovely Lyn who runs Hola Muchachos Spanish club, arrived with a basket of veg from her partner’s allotment. (orange beetroot if you please and it was cracker). Others who weren’t even drinking still brought a bottle, and everyone was hugely complementary.


Something we often forget, is that people are generally kind. I think if you’re a curmudgeonly old  bastard you probably wouldn’t put yourself through a night with strangers in someone else’s living room. A few weeks ago I went along to Haypark Supper Club for an evening of Thai cuisine. The food was restaurant standard and the hosts were incredible, welcoming us with a G&T Far Eastern style (Thai basil I think) and feeding us until we were almost ready to expire. I’d go again tomorrow except they’re nearly always booked out. Everyone there was lovely too, and do you know, even if the food was a bit shit, I wouldn’t have minded. If there’s openness, laughter and hospitality, that’s already a lot on the table.


So to those who came, thank you, and maybe we’ll do another in the autumn. In the meantime, I have to get thinking what my new thing this August is going to be….. any suggestions welcome (but I am NOT doing the naked sushi thing).

  • Thanks to The Vineyard and Kaffe O on the Ormeau Road for putting up posters
  • Check out Haypark Supper Club (posters can be found in Bread and Banjo on the Ormeau.)