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sourweebastard

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SWB on Disappointing Dinners

I’m just back from a family holiday in Dubrovnik and the post-trip glow is fading as fast as my tan, especially when I check my bank-balance and have to take deep yogic breaths. Croatia, I’ve since been told, is renowned for being expensive, but I missed the memo and only realized half-way through, after blithely charging drinks to the room at the pool-side bar.

But, if you aren’t heading abroad and think you’ll miss this feeling of being royally ripped off, never fear- take a spin to the Old Inn in Crawfordsburn and enjoy being robbed closer to home.

When I met my friend for a catch-up in back in June, I’d felt feelings of warm nostalgia bubbling up at the prospect of our meal there. In our twenties we used to visit The Old Inn often, popping in for coffee after a coastal walk, or long chats by the foreside at Christmas, our hands cupped around glasses of red wine. Sometimes we’d spot Gary Lightbody, and that would make our night because not only has he a cracker set of lungs on him but he’s a decent sort, is our Gary.

He wasn’t there on this occasion though, and I can only surmise that he won’t be there with the same regularity because he’d fairly fritter his fortune away.

Readers- the prices are EYE-WATERING; enough to make you cough up your cappuccino, should you be foolish enough to fork out £5.50 for a cup. You can try ordering tap-water, but it took me three goes to get a glass delivered to my table.

Menu choices were limited and well, strange. The bar menu was standard fare, but it was all on the heavy side. I know the jet-stream has wandered off-course but I at least wanted to pretend it’s summer, so I wasn’t after a lamb casserole or fish pie.

The A La Carte menu didn’t excite either. I didn’t want veal or duck or smoked mackerel with eel mayonnaise- (would anyone?)

And so I settled for the aubergine curry, after having to ask for the vegetarian menu, which was another disappointment. Tell me this, since when does white asparagus and olive oil potatoes constitute an actual meal? As a menopausal woman, I didn’t feel I should have to ask for eggs on the side to ensure I met my protein target for dinner.

Back to my order. ‘Have you tried it?’ I asked our server, because the whole menu indicated that it would promise much but under-deliver. ‘Oh yes,’ she replied, ‘it’s good, very fragrant.’ Now, she had me at fragrant, because notional creature that I am, I thought of velvety massaman curry with coconut and galangal. Alas, whoever concocted this curry wouldn’t have known fragrant if a stick of lemongrass had speared them in the eye. A bowl of brown gelatinous gloop appeared, the base of which, I can only imagine came from a generic plastic tub one finds in the Asian supermarket. Swimming in the sludge were a few beans and a token amount of aubergine. The key ingredient appeared to be sliced potato. It came with rice, but no little extras. A small portion of poppadums would have livened up proceedings, likewise nan bread, maybe even chutney or raita. The one garnish, plonked atop the rice, was a clump of sodden watercress; that one ingredient a curry should never be without. But I get it, who wants to go off in search of  fresh coriander on a summer’s evening? Bit of a faff, that.

My friend lives in New Zealand now, so when she converted the prices she baulked at the thought of paying over forty dollars for a burger. Instead, she ordered arancini from the list of starters and a portion of fries. It was underwhelming.

We weren’t convinced that a dessert would be worth it’s £10 price tag, but that did mean we were denied sitting on and listening to a fellow patron chortle at loud videos on his phone for another half hour. Maybe this is what Trip Advisor meant when it said the Inn was ‘a playful blend of the old and new.’ At least my visiting friend was treated to some cultural highlights of NI in the summer time, as the bar area afforded direct views of local Orangemen vaping outside the Lodge.

A homely, convivial ambiance has always been the charm of the Old Inn, and is why, I suppose, people keep coming back. But since the change in ownership, and the hike in prices for such mediocre offerings, I can’t see me returning. ‘Trust us, you’ll love it,’ says their website. That’s just one of the many things they got wrong.

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SWB on dilly-dallying

A big thank you to everyone of you lovely people who read my latest post on the auld menopause.  I received so many messages and comments or folk met me out and about and said it chimed with them. I’m glad- the Mothership is regularly suggesting/imploring that I stop being so open and telling my business but I’m not going to heed her advice, because a) I find it cathartic and b) I think women have shut up for long enough  and that by airing such matters we might all feel a little bit soothed that we’re not alone.

The other morning I sent Herself a message to say to listen up because I was going on the Frank Phone-In and she WhatsApp-ed me back with the tersely worded reply, “Tell me it’s not about your menopause?” coupled with a ‘hand-over face’ emoji. As it happened, it wasn’t, it was to chat about Marie Kondo making more money from our human frailties, by peddling a box where you shove your phone so you can get a moment’s peace.

You can buy a Faraday Box for as little as twelve quid off Amazon, but ‘the queen of con’ as I’ve taken to calling her, is charging £75 because hers is tastefully coloured in Farrow and Ball shades of beige and apparently blends delightfully with one’s kitchen. (Providing, I suppose, that one’s kitchen is beige, which mine is not.)

I appreciate that many of us are in thrall to our devices, and get twitchy when they aren’t close to hand. But instead of buying a pricey box to sit in our way, we could wrap our phones in tinfoil and try leaving them in the other room? But of course we won’t, so we’ll just keep on going as we are, looking at the bloody things all day long, which is my current state of play.

Take today, for example. I’m presently trying to write a short story, and as fiction is not my usual medium, it’s proving tricky. I lift my phone to ease the pain of feeling frustrated and untalented. First, I check my Parkrun result from earlier. Yes, I think to myself, I’m faster than last week, AND I came in before LSB*. Yeooo. Next I read a disturbing WhatsApp message from a mummy group which says some P7 kids already have boyfriends and girlfriends, and not only that, but buy each other expensive gifts! Heaven help us. To comfort myself,  I scooch over to Instagram, and watch a reel about a man who takes his cat paddle-boarding and the sea and sky are a dreamy blue and so I start fantasying about my holidays. This prompts me to wonder should I invest in eco-friendly sun scream because my friend said she tried one and it reduced her prickly heat and is kind to coral and sea-life. I’m tempted to order on line but then I think to myself, FFS NO! you’re supposed to be writing the short story because the deadline is June 10 and you haven’t even finished the first draft and you are SELF-SABOTAGING! So now I’m still not written the story but I am at least writing this which is something, I suppose.

So this proves that I am hopelessly addicted to looking at  my phone and maybe I do need a Marie Kondo Faraday Box in muted shades of beige.

It pains me to say it, but Kondo is right: mental clutter wrecks your head just as much as the detritus on your counter top, and so fairplay to trying to flog her boxes, because it raises the elephant in the room that phones are a fecking menace and if people are even tempted to pay £75 to address the issue, then that proves it.

I did lift an old copy of Red Magazine the other day and came across a review of ‘Indistractable’ by Nir Eyal which I found useful. He suggests we  interrogate the reason WHY we’re reaching for the phone and ‘surf the wave’ of being tempted and wait ten minutes. Maybe I’ll try that first, and save a few bob.

*For any new readers, this is my husband, Stevey, or My Long-Suffering-Bastard

 

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SWB on the joys of Reverse Puberty

It’s me- I’m back! I haven’t posted in AN AGE, for two reasons. Firstly, I’ve been caught up in the clamour and hurly-burly of life. And secondly,  I am in the proper grip of the MENOPAUSE. This was confirmed to me after a blood-test showed that my hormone levels have bypassed the peri-stage of the process completely and I have crash-landed straight into the main event. This was an immense relief to discover because I thought I was just losing my shit altogether.

According to the NHS website, approximately 5% of women experience ‘a spontaneous early menopause’ which occurs before the age of 45, (which I turn in June.) The use of the word ‘spontaneous’ makes me laugh here. Normally, the word has pleasant connotations for me: an unexpected night out or a last-minute trip away, or an old friend picking up the phone on a whim for a chat. Spontaneous combustion now, THAT I get entirely, especially given how my moods ricochet round-and-about at the minute.

Others pointers indicated that I may have entered the realms of full-blown menopause.

1-My mind is mush- I’m searching for words through a sea of golden syrup.

Finishing a sentence has become quite an issue; as has using basic words. They aren’t on the tip of the tongue, the back of the throat, or even in the general area of the head. They are far-flung, dancing in the ether.

Last night I tried to issue instructions to my children.  ‘Bring in your stuff in case it rains in the night.’ I was met with blank stares. I gestured towards the window. ‘You know, your stuff, off the thing, the thing in the garden, the JUMPY THING?’

‘Girls grab your coats off the trampoline,’ interjected LSB, to put an end to the torment. Out they trotted. (Can anyone else’s offspring manage to have a bounce on their trampoline without setting up camp? Just asking.)

My inability to articulate has become a bit of a joke now. Himself read somewhere about items being bequeathed different names for the sake of amusement. Thus he now refers to the colander as the ‘holy-bowly’, tissues are now ‘sneeze-paper’, and instead of changing the bed sheets we now put on the beds pyjamas. This he does in an effort to make me feel better, or so he says.

Apparently some people know the menopause as “power surges” however I feel the opposite- like someone has stolen my plug.

2- The forgetfulness is a killer. Last week I went into the pharmacy to collect a much-needed prescription. ‘Ten minutes,’ said the kindly girl at the counter. ‘Wonderful! I gushed. ‘See you shortly.’ But by the time I’d picked up some veggies and cat-food I’d clean forgotten about the prescription and motored on home.

I’ve kept my friends informed about my dwindling mental capacities  and have told them not to take offence if I’m late or ditsy and to just please text or ring me if I’ve missed something.

Phone numbers and passwords. Holy God; not a mission do I have. Now, to be fair, I switched my phone contract recently and in the change-over I lost my old number. I mourn it every day, because I’d had it for yonks and could rhyme it off on autopilot. Maybe I’m still in the denial stage of the grieving process, but I’m damned if I can commit the new one to memory.

3- My confidence with regards to writing has plummeted, and this is such a vicious circle as a nasty little voice instils itself in my head, insistent that anything I write will be utter rubbish. But this affects all writers, even those who like me, have yet to have a book published. But, as any budding writer out there knows, if you don’t flex your writing muscle, it makes it harder to focus and return to the practice the next time. Sometimes you have to force yourself, like when it’s raining and you have to take the dog out and neither of you can be arsed but if you don’t she’ll pee all over the floor.

Hopefully though, things are on the up because I’ve started on the patches and already a feeling a semblance of calm descend. It may as yet be a mere scintilla, but I’m clinging on to it like hell and hoping for the return of clarity soon.

I know this has been a ranty/complainy post but I will be back soon with a few things that have cheered me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SWB on sartorial dilemas

My pre-teen girls have discovered shopping, and very excited they are about it too. With newfound independence and their friends in tow, they’ve taken to heading down to our local shopping centre and the novelty has rendered them almost giddy with glee.

Here I find myself in a CONNUNDRUM because I’m Miss ‘Second Hand’, Miss ‘Rewear-don’t-care’, Miss ‘Let’s go plunder a charity shop’. They’re only little, hence my reluctance to grim them out with doom-laden talk about the environmental impact of their purchases.

I also don’t want to rain on their fashion parade because I remember this time very well myself. I recall channelling my inner Claire Danes from  ‘My So-called Life’ and ogling a red and black lumberjack shirt from Tammy Girl. It wasn’t just a shirt; it was a pathway to teenage drama, to mild transgressions and experimentation. When I finally got it for Christmas I was beyond thrilled, layering it over my Lee jeans and black bodysuit. Sadly for me, up at my local Youth Fellowship there were no Jared Leto look-a-likes who fancied me in my Indie-grunge attire.

Later came my hippy phase, when I took to wearing crocheted cardigans and tie-dyed skirts paired with DM boots (which sliced the shins clean off me, long after they should have been worn in.) But regardless, it was sourcing these items in Ard’s Shopping Centre which was the real fun; curating a new persona with a little help from Top Shop and River Island. And I agonised over these purchases, because I knew they couldn’t just last a season, as I couldn’t just replenish my wardrobe the second I tired of them.

But when my kids bounce in with a tee-shirt and crow, ‘It was only £3!’ I want to say, ‘That’s not the bloody point!’ I hate the idea that they’ll start thinking clothes are disposable, when they can pick up a new top for the same price as a tub of gelato.

At this point though, I need to be transparent, because I have been known to feel a great deal of gratitude to our retail outlets,  such as on ‘World Book Day’ back in March. The Small Child, along with a few mates, took a notion to be an Oompa Loompa. Since it was her last year of primary school and I didn’t want to be a kill-joy, we ended up in H&M. I was relieved when she found a brown pullover and white jeans, both of which were relatively inoffensive and she promised me she’d wear again. (She also bought a shower cap and painted it green as I refused to buy her a wig, and I was impressed at her ingenuity.)

Last week, however, when I asked if she would wear the brown jumper, she made non-committal noises. I asked again, and it was a flat no. My response to this was language that Oompa Loompas may have fashioned a song and dance around.

But I may have stumbled upon a solution. The Small Child is of an entrepreneurial bent, like a mini Lord Sugar (except hopefully with better politics.) I’m currently persuading her to sell her items on via Vinted or E-bay, then you’ll be pleased to see that e-bay have scrapped their seller fees; a big bonus for buyers and sellers alike. It’s a small bid to promote a circular economy and is thus something that I am 100% behind.

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SWB on Facial Festooning

Apparently Jennifer Aniston has taken to smearing salmon sperm to her face in an effort to retain her youthful glow. Don’t know if I fancy it myself, but then again, a quick squiz on Google and there’s all sorts out there to slow down the ravages of aging. Placenta anyone, from a sheep no less. It claims to do wonderful things.

 

But I’ll tell you this; if it came to it, I’d sooner apply placenta than go under the knife. Life’s hard enough without having the face carved off yourself, and I wouldn’t want to be bandaged up like a mummy afterwards. I’ll keep my crow’s feet, ta very much.

 

I’ve no plans to resort to the Bo-tox either, although if I do take a notion, it will be discreet. I’ve seen too many faces recently that look blown up like a pufferfish, and lips that resemble the work of a caricaturist on a plaza on the Costa del Sol.

 

But as yet, I’m still covering the greys and having my gel nails done, and I wear good makeup; wouldn’t be without it. And boy do I need to.  The dereliction of my face, (and believe me, I’m not being hyperbolic) is down to my own stupidity, or sloppiness at least.

 

I firmly believe that prevention is better than cure, so here’s what I SHOULD have done, starting in my twenties.

 

In the immortal words of Baz Luhrmann, wear sunscreen. Slather it on, every single day. I was an awful eejit, and when I headed on my year out to sunny Reunion Island in 1999, I paid scant regard to my Factor 50. Sure, I took more care when sun-bathing, but on a day-to-day basis, I was anything but prudent. Readers, the ravages are evident.

 

My mum had me well-warned, because she too spent her twenties in the tropics, and in the 1970’s no one paid much heed to the UV rays. Hence, she got a terrible shock when she took at close look at her arms, and compared them to those of her aunt’s, who was thirty years her senior. Aunt Emma had never ventured further than the Isle of Man, and had arms which were smooth and wrinkle free. It’s not an exact science by any means, but evidence enough, methinks.

 

Reckless choices are also responsible for the wreckage that stares back at me in the mirror each morning. And no, I’m not referring to an excess of wine, coffee and sugar, that unholy trinity which leads to tiny broken veins on my nose and cheeks. No, I’m talking cats, mine in particular. My furry despots demand attention at 3am, disrupting my sleep. There’s also the small matter of being slightly allergic to their hair: which makes my eyes itch and water, leading to much rubbing and ensuing redness. It’s both uncomfortable and unbecoming. But I’m stuck with my cats, and will just have to wait until they die of natural causes. Maybe I’ll fork out for the placenta cream in the meantime.

 

But it’s all a bit reductive really, worrying about our looks. Sarah Jessica Parker, now in her late fifties and just accepting the greys, pout it very succinctly when she said:

 

It almost feels as if people don’t want us to be perfectly okay with where we are, as if they almost enjoy us being pained by who we are today. I know what I look like. I have no choice. What am I going to do about it? Stop aging? Disappear?”

 

How I love SJP. When I saw her in ‘Plaza Suite’ back in February at half-term, she was skipping about that stage, lithe as a leveret, all gorgeous and gleeful.

 

Anne Lamott is another one of my heroines, and I don’t think she’d have any truck with inflated lips and frozen foreheads. As she said in her Ted Talk, ‘It’s an inside job,’ and I take this to mean that I should focus my attentions inwards rather than out, and to that end, I look infinitely better when I smile, and when I’m not complaining about something. And in these dark times, if I can still manage to find space for joy, then I’m going to celebrate every one of those laughter lines.

 

 

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SWB has fun in spades

SAYIT J1 USA🇺🇸🇮🇪 on X: "Happy Bank Holiday Monday from everyone at  #SayitJ1 https://t.co/Hu1UUKQjz1" / X

I had a word in his ear yesterday. ‘The front garden needs a proper sprucing. It’s making a pure show of us in front of the neighbours’

Himself looked up from his coffee. ‘That’s the most Protestant thing I’ve ever heard.’

I ignored this. ‘So I think we should go to a garden centre.’

‘Now THAT’S the most Protestant thing I’ve ever heard,’ said he. ‘And on St Patrick’s Day too.’

He has a pure hatred of garden centres, has my husband.  That is, until he enters one, and starts buying all round him. Case in point, earlier, when we traipsed down to Homebase, spurred on by some unsatisfactory time outdoors yesterday afternoon.

He had given in to my griping, (ALL I AM ASKING FOR IS THIRTY MINUTES OF YOUR TIME) and out he came, having donned appropriate footwear, because in 2019 we went to Majorca and I’d had him out digging a flower bed and a creature had worked its wily way into his shoe and devoured his foot. He said it really compromised his holiday enjoyment, and no antihistamine seemed to quell the itch so he took to the beer by way of distraction instead.

Anyway, no sooner was he out when he started questioning the tools at hand. In he went to the shed, but no amount of rummaging revealed the ‘Pokey’ device to dig the pesky weeds from between the paving stones. ‘It’s a patio knife we need,’ said he, having done a cursory Google search.

So it was down to Homebase this morning and poking devices were purchased as well as lavender and rosemary so we can be greeted by olfactory pleasantness at the front door. ‘While we’re here we may buy drain buster for the bathroom sink,’ he said, so off we moseyed and met Cruikshanks the Homebase cat on route, curled up on a padded chair, all supine and ginger and gorgeous. Cruikshanks has a perfectly good home in the housing development behind the store, but Homebase seems to hold a particular charm for him.

In the detergent aisle I was excited to see a storage device for organising saucepan lids. Into the trolley it went, quickly followed by a Super Powerful Toilet Cleaner and a Citrus Plughole Freshener which apparently ‘cleans and deodorises.’.

As I sit here typing this, I am treated to the sound of the power hose, while the Patio Knife and Pokey Device remain in a bag, while he blasts away merrily while wearing his new manly garden gloves. Our own cats are livid.

Never say we don’t know how to live it up on a Bank Holiday Weekend. Welcome to middle-age, everyone.

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The Down-Low on Dishwashing

Anarchy abounds, but guess what the UK public need, a bit of insider information on… wait for it… drum roll… domestic   duties in the Sunak-Murty House! Of course, knowing that Rishi darts up between meetings to check if the duvet’s on straight and if the dishwasher is stacked to his satisfaction is going to make him infinitely more likeable, isn’t it? It’s still a firm NO for me, but I do have to admit that maybe I do have something in common with a multi-millionaire Tory after all. Turns out, I’m pernickety about the dishwasher too, just like Rishi, ‘main man of the moment.’ He likes to get in there and do a bit of rearranging, if Akshata has been let loose and things have been flung in awry.

So what are my pet peeves about the dishwasher? Let’s go:

Number one is a biggie, because my machine has a temperamental ‘on’ button. In other words, you think you’ve put the fecker on, then you come down the stairs, open up and instead of gleaming crockery you get a whiff of last night’s Tikka Masala. It drives me bananas altogether.

Numéro Deux- and this relates to Number One. If LSB has been at the stacking, you always know, because he hasn’t rinsed. Hasn’t bothered his arse and so there’s crumbs and smears and itty bitty grains of rice clogging up the filter. RINSE THE BLOODY THINGS! I’m not talking a scrub, just a quick rinse. A tiny rinse, that’s all, a quick PHSST from the hot tap. IT’S NOT HARD.

And then we have Deary-Me-Number-Three, the perils of over-stacking. That’s a nonsense and a half. I used to a determined over-stacker, because I was trying to be a conservationist, in the same way that you don’t want to do a half load of laundry. But, it’s a fool’s errand and don’t be at it. Stuff comes out and it’s not half washed, and on one occasion, I smashed a glass trying to wrestle it out and PING went it’s little stem, and alas, it became an ex-glass.

What’s better, and I believe better from both one’s mental health AND the environment, is to get the fecker on DAILY, and on a shorter cycle. Don’t let it build up: bish-bash-Bosch,-and-a-speedy -little-wash-and-on-your-merry-way-you-go.

Now, Number Four is less of a point and more of a pry and it’s this, do you put the pans in? I was always scandalised by this, thinking that you hand-washed the pots and pans and just complained about it Ad infinitum. But then I witnessed an increasingly number in my circle just firing their Le Creuset into the dishwasher with wild abandon- not a bit of bother to them! It was something I’d always have felt guilty about, as though one had to pay a penance for enjoying a coq au vin* of an evening. And then, didn’t I spot an Instagram post, and a sensible and compassionate person suggested, that if the pots, pans and paraphernalia were all too much, then just give them a second cycle. Now, I know, that some of you may, and perhaps justifiably so, take me to task on this and say WHERE? WHERE IN THE NAME OF ALL THAT IS GREEN HAVE YOUR ECO-CREDENTIALS GONE? And you’d be right. Not a leg have I to stand on. Except this: recently I have been feeling shite, brow beaten by flu and besieged with sadness on account of the rotten, stinking world as we know it. And I thought back to reading KC DAVIS’s book, How To Keep House While Drowning, and I thought, you know what? Someone you gotta stick the load on for a second cycle. Haven’t we got the solar panels and don’t I use the SMOL tablets to take the bad look off it?

I do believe I’ve reached the end of my dishwasher dictat. I know  I haven’t even got to the finer details- do you pop the cutlery in wily-nilly or with blades all pointing up; I haven’t settled the debate of whether cups should EVER be on the top layer or if it’s morally right to shove a chopping board in that you’ve only sliced a cucumber on and could just be SHOWN THE TAP (A Mothership phrase.). We haven’t got all day. But please, if anything here strikes you as OUTRAGEOUS and your blood is all a bubble and a-boil, you know where to find me: I’ll have my feet up while my Bosch whirls away in the background.

*not as fancy as it sounds, just chicken thighs, onions, a few carrots and a generous slug of Harvey’s Bristol Cream.

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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.

 

 

 

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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!

 

 

 

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SWB isn’t one for retail therapy..

I need to listen to my own advice. But I didn’t, and I went to the shops and it was fecking awful. I know, I know.  I’m all about my forays to charity shops; about experiences instead of material goods, and home-made truffles instead of a box of Miniature Heroes, but I’m also a realist. Sometimes, you have to buy knickers and socks and a new laundry basket from TK Maxx because your children have made a sleigh of your old one, by attaching a dressing-gown belt to the handle and tugging their sibling and a multitude of stuffed animals about. Said laundry basket is now buggered and a jagged edge threatens to take the hand off you every time you look at it.

Anyhoo, the Mothership, and I hoofed it to Bloomfield Shopping Centre, which bears little resemblance from how I remember it in the nineties. The M&S was so big and cavernous that we found ourselves wandering around gormlessly like Father Ted when he got trapped in the lingerie section. It was like a maze, particularly since the aisles were blocked by folk with trollies full of food.  A law should be passed, stating firmly that trollies don’t belong, EVER, in the clothes section, because the aisles are too narrow to accommodate them and consequently all movement is reduced to a standstill. Very irksome, when all you want is to grab your size 12 full briefs and find the nearest exit.

But it was Next which committed the greatest faux-pas, by cranking up the in-store muzak to ‘wreck the nerves entirely’ level. Dropping the latest beats from DJ ‘Deck-the-Halls-and-Rob-da-Manger,’ it created a frenetic atmosphere with a beat so pounding and intrusive it rendered any considered shopping an impossibility. I lost all ability to make a decision, and before I knew it I’d sought out a shop assistant. ‘Excuse me,’ I said, ‘but would you mind finding your manager, and making the case that this is a shop, not a night club, and that I can’t concentrate with that din?’ Her smile faded, but she diligently trotted off. But the music wasn’t turned down, or at least not in the three minutes I lasted before seeking sanctuary outside. The west wind blasted a wet drizzle into our faces but it was still better than the alternative. ‘That was horrible,’ I said to the Mothership, who agreed that indeed it was.

Later I told LSB the craic. ‘The thing is,’ he said, as he tucked into a Tunnock, ‘they don’t really want you there. You’re not the right demographic.’

‘What the actual f**k?’ sez I. ‘Not the right demographic? I’m their ONLY demographic!’ Always quick with a retort, he piped up, ‘Their perceived demographic. They make the mistake of thinking they’re trendy.’

He’s right, isn’t he, auld LSB. Who else do you think shops in Next only women in their forties, picking up bland office wear or choosing stuff for their kids or the ubiquitous baby gift?’

I was chatting with my friend over brunch earlier, and asked if she felt the same about shopping these days. ‘Of course I do! she replied. Her pet-peeve is stores with lighting so subdued that you have to employ the torch on your phone for a better look. Once she had to explain to a store detective at Hollister that she wasn’t stealing a denim jacket, she just wanted to see it in the daylight, to see whether it was black or navy. Turned out it was dark green.

So is shopping just for the young’uns? Is internet shopping the future and does it herald the end of the high street and a as a result a trip out with your mum ? I don’t know. All I know is that my wee wrecked head can’t deal with the reality of actual forays these days.