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SWB sees Red


WARNING: May put you off your dinner. Especially if bolognese.

Periods. Since popping out my off-spring, my periods have become sorer, heavier and more sheet defying. Perhaps you’re familiar with those wooden devices that you thrust into half a lemon and twist firmly to extract the juice? That’s how my lower abdomen feels on the second day. And sometimes, as a treat, it goes up my back passage too.

It’s the surprise element that gets me. Usually it’s on a 23 day cycle, except when it isn’t. One month it could be light and relatively pain free, another and it will saturate a tampon and a pad in an hour. That’s one way to endear yourself to Easyjet flight attendants, when your reserves are locked in the hold and you have to deplete their own personal tampon supply.

Holiday times are when my periods are at their most objectionable. On a trip to Malaga last year it was late. Very late. After two negative pregnancy tests I still couldn’t relax and enjoy my Rioja, lest I damage the budding embryo within. It finally arrived on the last day of the holiday. “Isn’t Mother Nature a malevolent old witch?” I opined.

It made a very visible appearance when we stayed with new friends in Barcelona. After being deceptively light it came a-gushing one morning; LSB had to coral the kids out while I assessed the damage. Like the f**king Texas Chain Saw Massacre, that’s what. Upon seeing an armful of bed linen, our gracious hostess assumed it was a ‘niña’ who had wet the bed. “No pasa nada!” she smiled, while I shook my head, trying to convey the necessity for Ariel Non Bio in my rubbish Spanish, and set to scrubbing the scarlet stain. I bet she can’t wait for me to come back next year.

So what brings on this particular rant today, one may wonder. Well, the first period of the year is always hideous. It’s not called the curse for nothing. We honeymooned in January and I learnt to my mortification that Hungarian toilets have the most half-hearted of flushes. LSB returned from a trip to the loo after me, his face positively ashen. Another year I almost crashed the car, as a searing white rage descended, to accompany my throbbing gut. And so to today and the reason for my ire: as I drove to Bangor with the girls I was beset by a fit of coughing, the force of which seemed to further dislodge my womb lining so that it soaked through to my nice frock. “Nice to see you Mum! Sorry I look like I’ve haemorrhaged, any chance you could nip up to Boots for me?”

AAI* is always good in a crisis and produces the needful, which I’d (of course) forgotten to bring. “How dreadful dear, but sure won’t be long until you’re rid of the damned things. I wasn’t much older than you when mine buggered off for good.” So I’ve hot flushes to look forward to next. It just keeps getting better.

Bring back the Red Tent I say! No need for Always Ultra, just a shared space with friends; the peace to sit, off the hook from chores and responsibilities, sipping wine together until the fecker had passed. Maybe our sisters back in Biblical times didn’t have it so bad after all.

I’m off to find the Feminax, night all.

*AAI is an acronym for my mother who is Almost Always Irked by something, or somebody. (Frequently me).












SWB on Unrealistic Expectations

Working full-time. Dogs to walk, children to cart, dinners to dream up and cook. Home works to supervise, essays to mark, lunches to pack, clothes to laundry, iron and put away. Then Monday rolls round again and it starts anew. This all sprung to mind when I read the results of a survey by Warner holidays on happy relationships last week. According to 2000 couples, in order to stay healthy, every marriage needs six meaningful conversations, three long walks and sex five times a week. Yes, you read that right. FIVE. Who, pray do tell, are these people? Are they, a) still in their twenties, (and if they are, then their opinions don’t count;) b) do they sprinkle a light dusting of cocaine onto their Weetabix of a morning or c) did they just lie to make the rest of us feel bad? If they do actually exist, would they ever just fling me whatever vitamins they’re taking? And while they’re it, take the dog round the block and babysit the children, so Himself and I can take the longer route down to the pub.


Seriously, I think surveys like this are just designed to make you feel shite about yourself. The couples also suggest having two ‘barn-storming rows’ a fortnight. Do these happen before, during or after all the shagging? Surely all the deep and meaningful chats should obviate the need for huge fall-outs, which in my mind, only happen after resentment has built up and festered for a while, or, if your husband has run a half marathon before drinking 6 pints, having only had a bowl of soup for lunch and falls asleep on the stairs on a Sunday evening. (Yes, on. Not at the bottom, or the top, just on). That day didn’t end well for anyone. Especially him.


Relationships though. Tricky. As a working mum I feel I am constantly letting someone down: the kids when I heave them oven chips and chicken nuggets; the pupils when my lesson is dry as crackers; myself, when I drink half a bottle of shiraz on a Tuesday. And your relationship just sort of bumbles along in the background. I feel bad when Himself sees me go out to work all dolled up with funky shoes and a nice skirt, then I come in and immediately change into troggy old leggings with long exhalations of  relief, because fuck me, aren’t tights really uncomfortable?


But this is all while I actually like Valentine’s Day, even it is only buying the M&S meal deal. It’s just about recognising that you, as a couple, deserve space and that it’s not bad to take it. We don’t buy crap cards or red roses flown in from Kenya at extortionate prices. But I do raise a glass and feel very, grateful that I met LSB. He straightens my hair before work and makes me my coffee. He encourages me to meet my friends and still buys me ridiculous dresses from God-only-knows-where on the Internet, but they remind me that he doesn’t see me as a knackered, 42 year old mother, but the twenty something who was bopping about in the Duke of York that he met many years ago. And that makes me very happy.


SWB visits the Menopause Cafe

Wordsworth wrote about daffodils; Yeats took to the pen about unrequited love, and me, I write ditties about periods.

When Anne McGale from asked if I would do a reading at the Menopause Café in First Avenue Café (formerly Boden) on the Ormeau last week, I was delighted to oblige. ‘Sure I’ll write you a poem,’ says I and churned out a few stanzas about the delights of being a woman on the cusp of the change. When I first started writing the blog, my periods were a pain in the arse so they featured heavily in my posts, (pardon the pun). Five years later, and I appear to be entering a new phase, so I might soon be talking less about the nuisance of having them, but rather NOT having them.  Changes have been afoot for a while now and as you can imagine, it’s been a riot.

On occasion I have long gaps in between, and last month it was so light that I was left wondering, was that even  a period? But sometimes, it likes to mix it up a bit. On my birthday back in June, my ovaries took umbrage at turning forty-two and as I sat in a restaurant with friends, I felt a sickening whoosh and bam, I bled right through my pants and ruined a pink silk dress. ‘Surprise!’ it seemed to say.

This prompted me to look up peri-menopause symptoms and to be honest I’m not much the wiser because annoyingly, much of what I’m experiencing goes hand in hand with stress. Anxiety, overwhelm and infrequent periods are symptoms with which I’m all too familiar, except they’ve been intensified and I feel more overwrought and incapable of coping than ever. But show me a sane person who isn’t feeling discombobulated at the moment? You’d need to be presenting with psychopathic tendencies or be living on Mars to be chipper in the midst of this global cluster fuck.

However, a couple of other symptoms have me thinking there’s more to it. I read Byddi Lee’s wonderful blogpost about her experiences, and she suffers extreme joint pain. Apparently this happens as oestrogen lubricates the joints so when it fucks off everything rubs together and causes friction. That’s my understanding of it anyway, but listen, I’m no scientist.). As well as tightness in my Achilles, I’ve also felt shooting pains in my wrists. Sometimes when I get out of bed I actually hobble to the bathroom, and feel as if I’ve run 10km the day before, until I remember I sat on my arse on the sofa and watched ‘The Sopranos’.

This is why it’s a blessing and a half that Anne has started the Menopause Cafe, to create a space where women can visit and share what they’re going through with others. It is particularly important since trying to get an appointment with your GP is almost impossible right now. With so many very real emergencies, I am loathe to be bothering them with questions about my aging ovaries; but that undermines the true dehabilitating nature of some aspects of the menopause. The government are constantly banging on about mental health and when you’re creaky and cranky and your confidence plunges, you may just need someone who is in the know and with whom you can confide.

I’m now keeping a ‘little red book’ so I can keep a record of how I’m feeling and jot down details of my waning cycle. Anne is a registered nurse and a menopause specialist, so it’s a relief when someone in the know can help you navigate this new terrain and tell you firmly that no, you’re not going mad and yes, it may be helpful to consider HRT. Anyway, if you’d like to hear the poem it’s over on my Instagram, @sourweeblog,  and do check out Anne’s page for more details if you think it would be helpful.





























SWB on dopamine dressing

September: there’s a month which just wallops you up the face, am I right? The glow I felt after my summer break is disappearing as fast as my tan: there’s too much to remember: seesaw passwords, football training, drop offs and pick-ups and the constant missives from the school requesting money. Then you have to be making a nutritious dinner of an evening: can’t be sending the weans to school half starved; I don’t think Tayto prawn cocktail sandwiches constitute brain food, more’s the pity. There’s not enough wine in the world like, is there? No wonder Sober-October has taken off: as we drink their way through September to cope, before copping on if we don’t slam on the brakes we’ll have our livers pure pickled by Christmas.  

In an effort to cling to the shreds of sanity I have left I’ve decided to try a couple of things to boost the endorphins. 

 I’ve donned the trainers again to get running: no more pulling on the pjs at 7pm and taking to the sofa. Well, not on a Tuesday anyway as down I go to Ormeau Park. It has been a blast: meeting friends from the running club and drinking in the last rays of sun before it sinks below the hills. I’d go as far as to call it uplifting. Last week, it actually made me think of The Retiro Gardens in Madrid. ‘What Kool-Aid has she been drinking?,’ you may ask yourself, but no kidding, in that golden hour before sunset, a continental buzz prevailed. Buskers singing ‘Brown Eyed Girl’; families dining alfresco on picnic benches, couples playing badminton on the grass and dog walkers stepping out with French Bulldogs and chi-chi Chihuahuas.  Aside from a fella shouting ‘For f**k’s sake Rocky, get over here’ as I nearly went flying over his Yorkshire terrier, it was a joy. And, the delight that was me this morning when onto the scales I hopped and discovered I had lost four kg. My joy was great: I’ve now a slight chance of fitting into pre-lockdown jeans, reversing the damage of all those pineapple creams and caramel squares. 


Colour. Yes, I am injecting colour into my life, via clothes and accessories and nail polish. I know, you come to this blog for the really important stuff, don’t you? But seriously, the news is shite. Every day brings a bit more gloom, and yes, me wearing a bright blue jumper isn’t going to change that. But yet. Maybe if we dress for the world we want rather than the one we have, things might improve. I operate on a different frequency when I feel good and I’m not trogging about in my sweats. Dopamine-dressing they were calling it on Monday’s You and Yours on Radio 4. Well, I’m rarely one  to be on the zeitgeist, but in the summer I started embracing shades which sang, rather than murmured, and it’s cheered me. Fashion houses are churning out the colours  to boost the nation’s spirits. Conscious that many have munched their way of a depression, they’ve also introduced softer waistbands and loose-fitting tops, to ease our way back to the office.  Might I recommend Robell trousers, if you’re looking to spruce up your autumn wardrobe. They are perfect for a gal like me who’s had two C-sections as although they have a structured look, they are much kinder to your mid-drift.  I picked up my last super comfy pair in Magowan’s in Ballynahinch. Cerise pink and fabulous (and only £21 because they were last season’s.)  

I get it. These small teaks aren’t going to change the world, but neither is plummeting into despair. If the world is heading to hell in a handcart, well then, let’d do it fabulously, darling.



SWB gets Déjà Vu, in Second Hand September

Scarves by Moschino; Louboutins in bubble gum pink, brogues by Paul Smith. Yes, you are on the SWB site and yes, I know I never mention labels. Usually I’m Mrs Kill-The-Craic, Mrs Reduce-Reuse-Recycle, sack cloth and ashes and all: that’s me.

But today it was all change: wait til you hear.  Didn’t I take myself over to Déjà Vu on the Lisburn Road, where I spent a cracker of an hour chatting to owner and style guru Ruth Seaby. Jeez Louise: by the end of it I was nearly asking for a job, such a lovely time was had. She knew most of the customers by name, and when they came in it was all, ‘would you keep an eye out for…’ and Ruth was right back with, ‘if anything comes in that’s black and a size ten I’ll be straight on the blower.’ It was ever so convivial.

This end of the Lisburn Road a glitz and glam fest. Déjà Vu is tucked neatly between a coffee shop and Sumo-cat Sushi, just down from a pretty blow dry bar, (La La Salon, if you don’t mind, it’s very Rodeo Drive, baby) and a funky little brow bar next to that. Now, I don’t give two hoots about brows and lashes, but if it makes you happy, knock yourself out. This year’s been shite, so who am I to say what you do with your face?

But back to the clothes. Déjà Vu is where to come if you’re looking something swanky and different, but minus the designer price tag. Yes, I’m quite aware I’ve pinched TK Maxx’s marketing slogan, but this is an entirely different experience because here, you get the benefit of Ruth’s expertise. The shorts I bought in Galway (remember the three euro ones from Oxfam?) were a bit loose, (how the hell that happened I don’t know) and she had found me a blue Guess belt and shown me how to do the French tuck; (try saying that after a few mojitos) within a few minutes of my entering the shop.

This is the perfect place if you’re looking for a couple of unique items to spruce up your wardrobe and I got lucky.  I was mid-chat with Ruth when I squealed: ‘Is that a Diane Von Furstenburg?’ and indeed it was, a stripy dress in the trademark wrap over style that flatters the tum of a 42 year old who’s had two caesarean sections. Unbelievably, it was in my size, and I was even more chuffed than I was last week when the child’s PCR result came negative and I could send her back to school.  I’ve always fancied a Furstenburg piece, but wouldn’t fork out for a new one and couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of doing E-bay. Here I was able to try and buy, with no pesky packaging or trips to the post office. Hurrah, says I.

Here’s how it works should you have any items to sell. Ruth takes clothes which are in season and in pristine condition and keeps them a few weeks to see if they goes, and if not, you can come and retrieve them. Should they, you get fifty percent of the sale prize. Sounds fair to me.

So there you go, a #secondhandseptember win for me, (two actually, if you count the belt). If you like your more exclusive brands, then keep this place in mind, as it takes browsing to a new level. There are clothes to suit everyone: Ruth told me that increasingly she sees students coming in, on the look-out for quality items that they will re-wear again and again. ‘Far more savvy than our generation,’ she says. ‘These girls do it better.’ I think she’s doing pretty well herself, is our Ruth.







SWB farms out the kids

Well guys and gals and all those in-between, how the hell are you? I myself am splendid, and yes, you read that right. You know the craic with me: I’m usually a whingy auld bastard, and if there’s nothing to whinge about (to be fair, there usually is) I’ll think long enough until I come up with something. But this summer, bar the HELL that was when the Older Child had to isolate for the first few days, has been glorious.


In advance of the holidays, and with self-preservation at the forefront of my mind, I organised to wheel the kids into different summer schemes for most of the break. Yes, this is an extravagance, but booking yourself into the The Priory isn’t easy on the pocket either, and there’s where I’d have been headed if I hadn’t taken matters in hand. I thus consider the expenditure to be worth it, and I’m enjoying something of a holiday too and I’m not even cracking open the gin at 5pm every night either.


Beside myself with delight I have been, pretending I’m abroad. Last week saw me sauntering around Holywood while they’ve been at Tennis and Sign, and this week I’m in Ballynahinch while they hang out at a farm at Kinesdale Donkeys. The downside of this is the sustained campaign to adopt a couple of donkeys, a plan which the Small Child has all worked out. She is invoking me to make a proposition to the man who owns the field behind us, so we could buy part of it and build a paddock. She almost has me convinced, though LSB may be seeking a decree nisi at this rate.


It’s not a bad way to spend a mornings, pottering about wee towns that you normally just speed past. Last week I dandered around Seapark with the dog, ogling the houses on the seafront. (Jeez Louise, said LSB, and I thought YOU were posh.) I stood peering at the palatial residences, trying to work out which one belonged to Van Morrison, so I could lob so rotten fruit over the fence, because he’s such a cantankerous auld fucker.


Seriously though, seeing the cloudless skies and feeling an actual WARM wind kiss my shoulders, made me feel as though I was in Spain, and I felt that same frisson of excitement I get when I go step off a plane. That almost never happens here, and it was bliss.


This week I have discovered Blue Cedar Landscapes which is a garden centre slash coffee shop (could it BE* any more Presbyterian?) and I’ve been sipping lattes and eating raspberry and almond slices, while trying to motivate myself to write. It’s a grand place to install yourself for a couple of hours, because there’s no way I’m motoring back and forth everyday to Belfast. What on earth would that do to my environmental credentials?  They are ever so nice here, and fill up my keep cup and refill my water, giving me a princely 10p discount for bringing my own container.


I’ve sought the shade and sat at a little wooden table, looking out at their terracotta planters of roses and clematis. A pot of crimson or cerise begonias adorns every table, and the same little robin has flitted over every day to see me. He’s the punk rocker of robins, with a few fluffy feathers which stick out on his back, reminiscent of Hardy’s thrush with his ‘blast be-ruffled plume.’ It’s been every so serene, even if you’re beside a crowd of auld dolls lamenting that Boris is ‘off his trolley’, (were truer words ever uttered?) and frazzled mums with hot and bothered toddlers. It’s always better when the children aren’t your own.


The best bit however, is that you can’t mop floors or fill the dishwasher when you’re out of the house. You can however, put a wash on before you leave, then text your husband and remind him to hang it out. He loves it when he sees my face pop up on his wee screen with such requests.


So there you have it folks. A rant free post. Stranger things have happened, (and fuck me they are, all around us with this freak weather we’re having.) But shoosh- I’m making hay right now, and and for a little bit, I’m going to enjoy it.


* Note the Chandler Bing intonation.







SWB looks for the Sunny Side

Hear me out here folks, but we’ve almost reached half-term and although we aren’t going on any of our usual jaunts, I still feel more than a frisson of excitement. The girls each have a wicker basket which slots neatly into a dresser in the kitchen. I am making sure that come Friday afternoon, every single book and pencil and ruler are fired into the receptacles provided where they shall remain for a solid week. I do not want to hear about seven times-tables or think how to punctuate a sentence correctly. I am weary of my own voice, droning on ad infinitum, boring myself rigid.

I want to make tacos at lunchtime without checking what shite they have posted on Seesaw without showing me first. I want to watch two episodes of Gilmore Girls instead of one so they won’t be grumpy, tired little feckers in the morning. I want to take my laptop upstairs to write without a child bleating that they need to read a story on ‘Bug Club’. Next week, I am fervently hoping for more sun so I can open the door and boot them out to play before they have the chance to annoy me.

The odd thing is, and I wonder if anyone else has experienced this phenomenon, but I actually feel a sense of relief not to be going anywhere. Has Stockholm syndrome set in? I’m not even talking Covid here, although I’ll never feel the same about a sauna again. I’m just reflecting on other irksome things that happen on holiday; like having to queue for breakfast, then being shown to a mediocre table and horror of horrors, for a family with a wailing toddler to plonk down beside us. My children can be very irritating, but at least they’re past that stage. I want to drink my own, good quality coffee that LSB makes in the morning, instead of the piss they serve in hotel restaurants. Can anyone enlighten me how they actually MAKE the coffee in hotels? Is it just one great big vat with some poor scullion stirring in tablespoonfuls of Maxwell House? It’s always weak, watery and lukewarm.  And, top of my list of things to be grateful for, is not having to set an alarm, to leave the cosy hotel bed, to get into the flipping swimming pool at 8am. Yes, I know no one is holding a knife to my throat to do this, but it’s either that or venture in later to be bashed and splashed by obnoxious little bastards flailing those great foam noodles in your face.

I don’t want to have to drop my pets off the ‘pet resort’ where the proprietors demonstrate all the warmth and congeniality of my grumpy tortoiseshell when I sit on her by accident.

I’m relieved not to have to pack, as inevitably I forget things and then have send LSB beetling off to pick up toothpaste/moisturiser/hairbrushes. Who I am trying to kid? Let’s not forget the warm coat I had to buy in Limavady when I went up with only a jumper on me last October. And my worst faux pas, when I said I’d take care of the packing for a trip to Kenya in 2010 and left all of LSB’s boxers sitting on the kitchen table. He had to go looking in a   department store in Nakuro, and they only did a range of Y-fronts in bold, primary colours which weren’t particularly fetching.

I am seeing a silver lining here, and frankly, I’m as surprised about that as you are. By nature, I am keen on a gallivant, but right now, not so much. With everything closed this half-term our options are greatly limited and I’m thinking ‘Thank f**k for that’. It means not having to traipse the children to the Folk and Transport Museum for an edifying experience. It means not having to squeeze my thighs into a pair of tailored trousers for an evening out. It means having a bona-fide reason NOT to meet that person you always say you’ll hook up with for drinks when secretly, you’d rather remove your liver with a butter knife than enduring an evening while they talk about their child’s lactose intolerance. You just can’t, Boris says no, simple as that. Hallelujah- first time I’ve been grateful to that gobshite for anything.

Today, even though the frost sat three inches thick on my windscreen, I didn’t mind because I didn’t have to go anywhere. As the Older Child read ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ the sunlight streamed through the window illuminating her in a pool of golden light. On hearing how rubbish I felt last week,  a neighbour rang the bell and handed me instructions, on how to make fat balls for the birds, along with lard, birdseed and cord. There are signs of light and life, and if we just get a week of respite, then we’ll be able appreciate them, wherever we are.





SWB on Groundhog Day and Recycling…

So today is Groundhog day and you may be forgiven for thinking, really, isn’t that every day at the minute? Or perhaps you’ve been reading my posts on Instagram and you’re thinking to yourself, fecking groundhog day again, she’s still on about the bloody environment, for the twentieth time this month.  You see, over January I came over all David Attenborourgh and did a series of posts about reducing waste. They were supposed to be daily updates, but I lacked the fortitude.  Hell, that was one LONG, torturous month, wasn’t it? But in addition to my being tired and fed up, I didn’t want to annoy people by posting every single day. Life, you may have noticed, is a bit on the shite side right now, and you are probably already pulled in seven different directions, and having someone harangue you about saving up your crisp packets might just have you on sipping gin with your toast of a morning. When stretched to your absolute limit, the thought of washing out period pants might just be beyond you. And that’s ok. As the statistics show, a million people making a few changes is better than a few doing everything.

However, I thought the posts might be useful for those of you who may have some extra  time or if your change in circumstances allows more flexibility. Last spring for example, I sent LSB off to B&Q to buy a water butt. We’d thought of getting one before but hadn’t bothered, then a neighbour mentioned how easy it was to get one and install it one. Since we had such a dry spell during the lockdown we made it a priority. Had we not both been at home so much, I know we still wouldn’t have one.

It was the same with the period pants – it was easier for me to make the switch to using them all the time because I wasn’t in school. No one wants to test drive bamboo pads when you’re standing in front of a class of year 12 boys and discover you have blood trickling down your leg. (Might I add here that this is MIGHTY UNLIKELY, because you’ll be changing them just like any other sanitary wear, as your flow dictates. The Mothership though, if she’s reading this, may be quite likely to have a mini-stroke: ‘Is there any NEED, Helen,’ she will say.)

Do you know what I really want though? For all this bullshit about periods being mystifying or embarrassing or dirty to be quashed underfoot. That is the DREAM.

But today, I am talking cardboard, or as those media types are now referring to it as: ‘beige gold’. We have an actual global shortage of paper, because we’ve all been buying our booze and frankly, everything else online. We won’t have any fecking forests left at this rate. I also believe I’m married to the main culprit, because LSB, despite my protestations, is never done ordering random shit off the internet. Often from Amazon too, and you know how much I fecking hate Amazon. I mean surely, SURELY, some clever people could work out how to reduce the packaging they use or have a returns policy organised with Prime? Those vans are never off our streets, so would it be too much of a stretch to hand them back some of the boxes and say, ‘give that another whirl?’ It would be easier than say, chopping down swathes of the Amazon? Just a thought. A friend ordered a pair of knitting needles, and not only were they delivered in a box large enough to fit one of my children in, but they were so wrapped in yards of paper. ‘What sort of eejit did that?’ I wondered to myself.  Probably some poor fecker who’s been working an 18 hour shift in a warehouse and pouring every remaining ounce of their energy  into maintaining the will to live, I imagine.

Anyway, rant over. Hopefully you don’t all think of me as a sanctimonious git running round in a sack cloth (I know it’s nearly Lent so I now have the image of John the Baptist in my head.) These are strange and frightening times but some of the comfort I glean is from studies which show a reduction in carbon emissions and the fact we can hear the birds better as their wee cheeps and caws aren’t drowned out by all the traffic. If we can at least keep up some of our efforts, then a tiny bit of good may be salvaged from this period of gloom.


SWB on Black Friday and alternative gifting

Black Friday has arrived, or so my spam filters are telling me. Except, what with me being of an environmental bent, it’s not River Island and Top Shop sending me bumpf about their top deals, it’s sustainable fashion co-operatives and ‘Koh’ cleaning products.

I got sucked into the whole Koh cleaning hype when I saw it described on  FB ads as a ‘system’. I was lacking any class of a system at the time, and thought that perhaps if I paid for one, it would change my whole approach to housework, rendering my home a more congenial space to live, instead of the stinking hell-hole it resembled. I was disabused smartish of that notion when the delivery lad rocked up. ‘It’s my eco-friendly cleaning products!’ I squeaked, as he came strolling up the drive clutching the box. LSB was bemused: he rarely sees me exhibit enthusiasm for anything in these peculiar times, let alone CLEANING items.  My excitement was short-lived. It wasn’t a system: it was a box of solution, a spray bottle and 3 cloths of varying shades. Oh, and a grout scrubber, for which I’d paid an extra £8.99, because it popped up on the screen when I reached the on-line check-out and in a fit of spontaneity, I had flung it into my virtual basket. I mean, what the absolute f**k?

(Of course, I really should have known I was on a hiding to nothing with an advertisement on Facebook, especially since it (allegedly) sold us a pup on Brexit and Trump.)

That said, what has this whole lockdown experience reduced me to, that the frisson of excitement that I once felt when I picked up a pair of half-price Camper boots, has now  shifted to purchasing all-purpose surface cleansers?

Well, apparently it has, because instead of browsing through the Oliver Bonas website for deals as December approaches, I’m banging on about some more local gift ideas to consider this Christmas.

Two brilliant local companies I am keen to champion are ‘Do Your Bit’ and ‘Earth Made’. They take such care to source eco-friendly products and document them beautifully on Instagram. Our home is far from being a plastic free zone but thanks to these good people we have upped our game a bit. Both of these guys have such passion and energy for what they do and I’m rather taken with their Beauty Kubes shampoo.

If you can’t see yourself presenting your loved ones with aluminium free deodorant come Christmas morning, the Saintfield based ‘The Edible Flower’ might be more up your strasse. This enterprising duo are selling hampers which they have lovingly filled with a selection of their divine creations such as chutneys and florentines and festive spiced Barm Brack. These sounds to me like the perfect way to spoil the foodie in your life who can’t be fobbed off with bottle of Taste the Difference Olive Oil from Sainsbury’s and a packet of 12 months matured Parma ham.

An artist who gets plenty of airtime on this blog is Stephanie Prince, indeed it was she who painted my logo for the blog. Steph has her own Etsy site now which you can peruse, and see all her whimsical creations. Better still, you could commission her to illustrate one of your favourite people and present that to them for a quirky gift. Thoughtful: tick, Personal: tick, ‘Doesn’t break the bank but suggests that you may have’: mega tick.

Now, as you all know, I love my coffee. (Coffee and alcohol, was there any other means to get through 2020?) During the first Lockdown we became somewhat reliant upon the glorious little pouches from local roasters Boden Park Coffee, which combined a smooth aromatic start to the morning with cheery service from Mr McKeating himself, who seemed to appear chirpily   at my doorstep approximately 30 seconds I placed my order.

And obviously, coffee is enormously improved with a slab of cake, and those Harper’s Yard girls just can’t be kept down and have only gone produced a cookbook featuring recipes from some of their most popular bakes, including one from The Mothership, no less. These days, when you’re not sure whether it’s a nuke from the Iranians or the fecking virus that’ll get you first, I find that having a second large slice of Guinness cake worries me a great deal less.

While on the topic of the boil-on-the-bottom that has been 2020, this is probably the only year when you see me recommend gifting someone a face mask as a stocking filler. But plug these I will, because the masks in question are fecking awesome and if we can’t pick up some milk in Tesco without wearing a  face-covering, let’s at least embrace style. My gorgeous friend Ruth and her pal Lesley have been making masks to support the Lagan Dragons.  The fabrics are so beautiful that when their shit show is finally over I want to ask Ruth to knock me up a skirts or two with without ever remnants she has left.  Masks are available at Coffee Box at Stranmillis Boat Club or DM me and I’ll organise to get you sorted with one.


If the idea of any consumerism at all is a bit much for you this year, maybe you would consider Twinning Your Toilet (or someone else’s). This is another ideal gift for those ‘awkward to buy for’ types. You could write some twee verse on their gift tag: ‘Think of me while you’re having a pee,’ or ‘Something to view while you’re taking a poo.’ There’s a novelty factor to this charity gift that I’m quite charmed by, and as one who has sought out toilets in far out lands and remains somewhat scarred by the experience, I’m always happy to invest money in improving conditions for bowel-evacuation.

I think, on that scatological note, it’s perhaps best that I sign off here, but hopefully I’ve given you some ideas on which to ruminate, which don’t involve making Bezos a few more billions this festive season.



SWB on why period shame has to stop. Period.

Saturday Shout Out for ‘Shared Threads’

This week I’m on about periods. What’s that you say? Periods, really? Again? Well hell yes, because for once I’m not just whinging on about my own (and the flipping big massive nuisance that they are) but I’m chatting about my epic friend Kirsty King who founded the charity Shared Threads’. Wait til I tell you: Kirsty is a SUPERSTAR. Initial impressions would lead you to believe that Kirsty is mild and unassuming. But not a bit of it- this woman has a core of steel and grit like you could never imagine.  When she learnt that millions of girls worldwide miss weeks of school every year because when they have periods, Kirsty decided that she couldn’t sit on her hands and do nothing. And so began ‘Shared Threads’- a collective of women AND MEN who make recyclable sanitary cloths and send them to India. This initiative is not just about giving girls their own bag of period  pads- it’s so much more than that. It’s telling them that they are valued; that they deserve respect and that there is no shame attached to their bodies, not during their periods or at any other time.

Here in Northern Ireland we don’t much like talking about periods. I know this because I talk about mine all the time. I find it’s quite a useful way of shutting down a conversation if it gets a bit tedious. People, especially men, move along swiftly when you mention PMT or a crampy tummy. The Mothership gets very irritated when I write about mine on the blog. I can almost guarantee that she will lift the phone sharpish to tell me that no one wants to hear about my menstrual cycle, or my mood swings. ‘Too much information!’ she will say.

So imagine growing up in a country where there is a huge stigma attached to the female body and its cycles. I don’t think I’d cope very well. In certain parts of India, periods remain a taboo subject and because many young girls have no access to pads they then miss out on going to school. This is why Kirsty joined forces with an NGO who distribute pads and provide information in areas where this is likely to occur, thus alleviating the confusion and anxiety felt by these girls.

On International Women’s Day I joined Kirsty at her workshop in Portview Trade Centre to see every stage of the making process and see how I could get involved. I have a great aversion to sewing machines as I am risk adverse and they require far too much concentration. Happily, for the likes of me there are other ways I could contribute and I was given the infinitely easier job of cutting up towels which form the absorbent part of the pad. I took a bag of towels home with me that day and cut them up over the course of a few evenings.

During Lockdown, work didn’t stop for Kirsty, as her team of volunteers continued to snip, stitch and sign hand-written notes, staying in contact and dropping off their handiwork at each other’s doorsteps. I asked her for a few more bags of towels and she gathered up some for me. Since then some of my friends have taken a few towels each and snipped away. It occurred to me then that we could to get together of an evening when it was safe to do so, and a jolly soirée was had. We called it a ‘Cutting Party’, which sounds like some sort of tribal ritual but just meant that a small group of us  sipped while we snipped at my table in the garden. I do love an activity- I think conversation flows (pardon the pun) better when your hands are busy.


Everything about Shared Threads excites me. I love how, with the exception of the PUL (a waterproof fabric that is used in the pads), everything is made from second-hand material. I love how by repurposing household items we are reducing waste, and by switching to cloth pads there is ultimately less plastic in the ocean. Over the last year I’ve been using a mixture of cloth pads and period pants and it makes me feel better that I’m contributing less to plastic pollution- especially in the throes of this pandemic when the PPE is flooding all our landfill sites, and ‘reusable’ doesn’t seem to be a thing anymore. (I’m not saying it isn’t necessary, just that it’s happening right now and if we could off-set it in any way then that would be good).

So I’d like to direct you over to Kirsty’s fabulous blog where you can learn all about her endeavours, see how you can help and perhaps even consider becoming a patron so she can keep doing this for as long as women need it. We need to put an end to period poverty, and this is one glorious way to go about it.

(I think what really makes these pictures is my banjaxed shed as a backdrop.)