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SWB asks to Speak to the Manager

Miss Ranty Pants is back, fuelled by a jaunt into town Saturday. Now, in good old MumsNet style, I’m going to begin by asking AIBU? (‘Am I being Unreasonable,’ for the uninitiated.)

Picture the scene: I am in JUBILANT humour. I have met a friend from long time hence in Avoca and we have eaten scones the size of our heads and drunk lattes and chatted about ‘all the important things.’ I met Leeann in the queue when I went for my first Covid vax and we decided to have a coffee before our second. Isn’t serendipity a marvellous thing?

We were in and out of the SSE Arena under 20 minutes (it’s expedience personified down there) and so, gifted with this pocket of free time I gave LSB a ring.  ‘Away into ‘House of Fraser’ and buy yourself something nice,’ said he. Say what you like about my husband, but he’s not a bad auld spud.

Now, you know me by now. I champion the small businesses, the organic certified cotton, the second-hand boutiques. But the mischief was in, and I thought, feck it, I will treat myself, and stop being so sanctimonious. And, the delight indeed, when whizzing up on the escalator to the third floor, I spotted ‘Sale’ signs: festooned on walls; a-dangling from ceilings; perched atop individual rails. It was to such rails that I gravitated, because I do love a bargain. And then, didn’t I spy some silken loveliness in bright spangly colours. Four items I took into the changing room and after much deliberation, and some lamentation about the absolute STATE of my upper arms, I selected a green silk sarong and matching camisole with a fetching, (and some might say tropical) pineapple print. I also lifted another wrap top to cover the aforementioned arms.

And then, the guilt hit me. Pricey they were, and I couldn’t see anything on their labels about sustainability or eco-friendly credentials. I thought that maybe I should just go home, and ‘shop my wardrobe.’ I dithered. Then, who did I spy but a teacher from the school I was last working in. I explained my dilemma, to which she replied, ‘BUY THE OUFIT FOR GOD’S SAKE.’ She’s the kind of woman to whom one listens, so off I went to the cash desk.

And this, readers, is where it takes a very sad turn. Nothing was reduced: not a jot. Despite the sign atop the rail, it did not apply to any of the items I had lifted. The girl was very apologetic. Affronted, I left them there, and then took a dander back over to the rail. Nothing had any mention of money off at all, despite the signs indicating that they were on offer. And so, unable to contain myself, I became that person, and I asked to speak to the manager. Over she duly came, (we’ll call her Sue) and God love her, Sue looked like she could do with a nice coffee and a sit down. I explained the situation which I described as not only misleading, but duplicitous. I suggested that this was why the store was usually empty and why the High Street was in a state of chassis. (Not this Saturday. This Saturday it packed, which didn’t lend my argument much credence.) Sue revealed that the precise wording of the offer was ‘Up to 20% and only on selected lines.’ I retorted that I was a busy woman, and I hadn’t got the time to be prancing about, trying on ‘sale’ outfits which weren’t on sale at all. I may have used the phrase ‘false advertising.’

Phew, I’m done now. Needless to say, the outfits remained in the shop and I came home and found a dress I bought in Valencia in a small boutique two Easters ago. I think it cost forty euro. I thought it was very pretty, (but not so much in the picture below where I look like I should be presenting Songs of Praise from a National Trust venue.)

To return to the start of this rant, AM I BEING UNREASONABLE? Ever so irked I was. Do let me know your thoughts on the matter, and whether, after my experience, you are likely to be frequenting the store.

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SWB feels middle aged

This is the most middle-class, middle-aged stuff I’ve ever read!’ raged a malcontent a few weeks ago when she took umbrage at my rant about cooking the dinner. Well yes, she may have had a point: I think we’re all agreed by now, that I’m more middle class than a one-shot latte in Kaffe O. Middle aged though? That stung a bit, I must say: I’m only 42, FFS. Sometimes, I still feel like a youngster; a fact to which LSB will testify, especially when it comes to renewing the car tax.

But a few times recently, I must confess that I have tragically felt very middle-aged. I blame Radio Two, and Claudia Winkleman in particular. The other day I was nipping down to the shops to pick up a few bits in M&S for the lunch. And there was Claudia, waxing lyrical about a tip Sally Traffic had shared the previous week about putting on a duvet cover. Tragically, she didn’t elaborate on it, and I still haven’t got around to searching for the feature on BBC Sounds. I struggle with a duvet cover, despite people saying: ‘Ooh, just turn it inside out!’

I still end up making a Horlicks of the whole thing and end up trapped inside, like Casper the Friendly Ghost’s deranged sibling. The duvet tip though, sparked a whole rake of people ringing in with ‘top tips’, or, as they’re known now apparently, ‘life hacks.’  All you cool young things will know, but I’m late to the party because I’m still stuck inside the fucking duvet cover.

Anyway, this woman was ringing in with the BEST, EVER vacuuming tip and a younger SWB would just have turned off the engine immediately and headed on into the shop. But wait to hear what 42-year-old SWB did. She only sat in the car and delayed going in to get her edamame salad and salmon nigiri, to hear the Henry the Hoover tip. Apparently, according to woman, (who had stayed up late from her home in Melbourne to ring in); we all hoover as though we are infants who are new to ‘colouring in’ and do a quick squiggle in the centre of the picture. We take the same approach to hoovering, thus targeting a mere fraction of the carpet. What you have to do, according to our Australian whizz kid, is head over to the outer edge of the room, and vacuum in a straight direction, then veer left and right, thus covering a thorough area in a few deft movements. (Seriously like, I don’t believe I’m regurgitating this for your edification.) This method is known as the ‘shark’s tooth technique’, and is very effective. Many more people rang in to agree. I am unlikely to adopt said technique though as it would involve me tidying the room first and lifting all the shite, instead of just flinging the hoover around willy-nilly and congratulating myself at even managing t do that. Since I only do this once every few months, I’m unlikely to have any pointy shark teeth on my carpet any time soon.

But the fact remains- I listened, and worse still,  I found it interesting. I WANTED TO HEAR MORE. Now, if any of you have discovered that you have overnight hit ‘peak middle-age,’ I would appreciate you sharing your findings. Now, I’m away to iron some t-shirts and pair some socks while my husband watches The Euros. May just have a cup of the aforementioned Horlicks before bed too.

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SWB feels the love

You know my big middle-class moan about cooking the dinner? Well, it was the absolute BESTEST thing ever because since, I’ve been inundated with kindly folk sending me recipes, tips, and even FOOD. Oh yes, how my heart leapt when a friend left a tub of fresh tagliatelle with asparagus and lardons on my windowsill. It was generously doused in olive oil and black pepper and there wasn’t A WORD out of me the following lunchtime as I shoved it in my face.

‘I can see you’re enjoying that,’ said LSB, struggling to keep his ham baguette down as I shovelled it in, mouthful after glorious mouthful. My pal Stephen found the recipe on the back of a pasta packet and I can enquire further and share it, if you wish.

In the spirit of magnanimity, when it comes to food sharing, I sent another neighbour a portion of ‘Campfire Stew,’ a recipe a uni-friend sent me with the guarantee ‘your kids will LOVE it.’

Did they love it? No. Did they even like it? No. Did they at least eat it in an effort to please? I’ll let you answer that. LSB picked at it, miserably. ‘Are there baked beans in this?’ he asked.

I nodded.  ‘I thought the other ingredients might disguise the taste,’ I said, a tone of desperation creeping in. He picked out the meat, but said he could still detect, and I quote, ‘more than a hint of synthetic tomato sauce and an unpleasant orange-ness.’

‘That what you get for marrying a Protestant,’ I snarled.

So, I ate it for dinner, for the following lunch and then for dinner again. I grated cheese on top and served it with rice vermicelli and it was hearty and fabulous. But then my innards took umbrage at all the beans, which is why I sent it down the road.  My pal said it perked up her lunchtime no end.

We also did, and I recommend it heartily, a dumpling making course with The Edible Flower. I’ll be honest with you- my dough bore little resemblance to theirs, but it was worth it alone just to get cracking with loads of garlic and ginger and fresh coriander. I have missed FLAVOUR, I thought to myself, as I fried up mushrooms with scallions in butter. I made two different fillings, a meat and a veggie one, both of which left enough for me to cook up for lunch the next day. The wee ones actually ate the meat, so that was a bonus too.

Then another friend, (and I will stop after this, I promise,) but said she was tired eating on her own at lunch and invited me to hers. We sat in her sun filed kitchen and she handed me a bowl with a lentil, feta, sundried tomato and mint salad. That was it, four ingredients and it was a revelation. Really, I ought to have taken a picture, but I was far too busy eating.

It all made me think though- food is such an absolutely joyous thing and yet it ends up, for women anyway, a source of constant frustration. When I go to the supermarket, I feel shackled by what everyone else refuses to eat, and with a world-weary sigh I go back to the old staples. But every so often, a wee invite or a tub left at your front door, it’s enough to boost the spirit again no end.  And of course, restaurants are open again, so HURRAH.

 

 

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SWB is Feeling Fruity

Do you know when you meet someone who rubs you up the wrong way, and you’re chatting a while and you think to yourself, ‘Aren’t I an auld bitch because they’re not that bad?’ Inevitably though, out they come with whatever it is that has you wanting to stab them in the eye in with a fork. BAM! You were right all along- avoid them at all costs. Well, that’s how I feel about desserts. Not EATING desserts, but MAKING the buggers, from scratch. Take lovely sunny Saturday, for example. A lovely friend invited us up for dinner and oh the EXCITEMENT I felt at sitting with friends round a table indoors and not just freezing the absolute bollocks off yourself outside. I was in like Flynn- I’ll bring a dessert!

Last week, I was reclining with a coffee on the sofa perusing the Guardian Feast magazine. I took a fancy to a ‘mango-misu’ and bemoaned the fact that I couldn’t justify making it just for the four of us. This invitation thus afforded me the perfect opportunity. Diligently I set off to Sainsbury’s and bought the ingredients a day in advance. ‘I’m winning at this game,’ says I. I started making it in the morning to give it plenty of time in the fridge. This is when it started to hit me, though, why I hated making puddings. It’s all: Make the syrup in one pan. Beat up eggs and sugar in another. Leave to cool. In another bowl beat up egg whites. Stand and peel and chop about 60 mangoes. (six, actually, but I’ve never mastered chopping mangoes so it took a fecking week.) Shout at the older child who is supposed to be helping but drops sugar over the floor and brings over a chair to stand on which I trip over, spilling the zabaglione. Was there a bowl in the house left unsullied? There was not. This recipe was about fourteen steps too long and my mangoes, despite Sainsbury’s assertion that they were ‘ripe and ready to eat,’ where about as juicy and luscious as a boiled turnip.

Then I realized I hadn’t bought enough mascarpone and had to leg it to the shop for another tub. (There’s a whiff of the middle class about this post isn’t there?) By the time I got back the egg whites were no longer in stiff peaks- they were droopier than my boobs after the second lockdown. I had to get the Kenwood whisk out again, and I’d already washed the fecker. LSB is all, ‘Are you coming to take the dog a walk?’ and I’m like: ‘NO, I AM TOASTING COCONUT.’

It was an utter pain in the arse and I should have followed my instinct and bucked in a whole lot more rum because it was sadly lacking in that department and was barely detectable.

My friends liked it though and gave us some home.  I’m after eating a dish for my breakfast there, so all wasn’t lost. But folks, I’ve learnt something. Marks and Spencer’s: it’s there for a reason. Use it.

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SWB on ‘Making The Dinner Angst’

Do you want to know what is doing my head in this week? I shall tell you: it is making the dinner. It is making something we can ALL eat, that doesn’t involve tons of washing up; take shedloads of preparation, and isn’t nutritionally void. I mean, is that too much to ask? We used to feed the girls earlier and then eat later ourselves, which was a bit of an arse-ache, because I seemed to be washing up all evening, BUT, at least it allowed LSB and myself to be more imaginative with our choice of cuisine. But during lockdown we decided it was nice to all sit at the table together and pretend to be civilised, hence I am trying to cook once and make it do all us and the results are, well, varied to say the least.

Here’s a list of things everyone will eat: Spaghetti Bolognese; chicken fajitas (unrecognisable to most Mexicans, but hey-ho), pizza, roast chicken or ham, fish and chips. So far, so flipping boring. Here’s what isn’t on the menu: lasagne (‘too creamy’), stir fry (‘too cabbage-y’, despite the fact that there wasn’t even any cabbage in the last one I did); curry is ‘too spicy (even if it’s bland as f**k). Salmon, sea bass, veggie burgers or any veggie meals AT ALL, are off the table completely. I tried experimenting with pulses for a while, but other than chucking a few lentils into a sauce, it was a dismal failure. The faces that greeted me when I set down the spinach and chickpea curry from BBC Good Food; are etched on my memory for evermore. Anguished they were, ANGUISHED. Out came the chicken nuggets and into the oven they went. In an effort to avoid waste I ate it for my lunch every day for the rest of that week. That was over a year ago, and if I’m being honest, I’m still not quite sure my bowels have recovered.

It’s all very hard, isn’t it? Used to be, when in doubt, one could always fall back on a sausage. When I was little, The Mothership served up sausages at least once a week, and often they made an appearance at breakfast. The Mothership is a great one for the breakfasts and could write her very own blog about how to get toast ‘just right.’ And tea: fuck me, never get her started on the perfect cup- she sets a timer and all, for it to brew for exactly 4 minutes. Tea obsessed is that woman. Anyway, back to sausages:  I’m after reading about the pig farms in Ballymoney and I was near sick. I don’t know if I can ever eat a pig related product again, except I have a bit of Spanish chorizo in the fridge, and it livened up the chicken fried rice I made last night no end.

When the children were small I read a French guide to child rearing. It taught me many things, but mainly it made me feel shite as the French just appeared superior in just about every aspect of parenting. The book suggested that a child has to try a food thirty times before giving up on it. If I thought I was going to have to watch the Small Child’s face while she forced down a piece of cauliflower thirty times, I would be downing a litre of Smirnoff every night, just to get through the meal. There were many other tips, such as how to get your offspring to eat grilled courgettes and pamphrey and braised celeriac with a balsamic glaze. Needless to say, this is all pure bollocks and my children have yet to eat any of the above.

They also don’t like salads, soups, quiche, meat pies, risotto, or spaghetti carbonara, (which I fecking LOVE). And when I use the pronoun ‘they’, LSB is included in that. He doesn’t have the most refined palette and would live, if I permitted it, on white bread and bacon. At this stage in his life, I think he is about 50% nitrate.

It’s shite, I’m telling you. Every week I get the ‘Guardian Feast’ and entertain notions of trying something new, and then I take one look at Ottolenghi’s list of ingredients and feel tired. I live in Belfast, not the fucking Edgeware Road in London, I think to myself, and it would take me about a month and a half just sourcing the ingredients for a meal, half of which I’ll inevitably to be scraping into the compost bin.

So it’s Friday and thank the good lord above because it’s takeaway night and thus I have very few decisions to make. Hallelujah. I would say ‘send me your suggestions’ but it’s probably a waste of time, so just leave a ‘wee thumbs up’ if you too are suffering from ‘extreme dinner fatigue’.

Check out Dirt Birds too on this theme- it’s Hilarious

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SWB on Mental Health (or lack thereof)

Do you know what’s ironic? Someone writing about mental health at the end of ‘Mental Health Awareness Week’ when their head is more fried than a Mars Bar in a Glaswegian chipper. And do you know what’s wrecking me the most? It’s the fact that the pace of life has been ratcheted away up again and I’m no more fit for it. I just see a list of things that aren’t done and I can’t get near them because everyday there are eleventy-billion small things to do- all of which take longer than they should fucking need to.

And the absolute second I get stressed, guess what I do? I lose things, important things.  So this week I realise I’ve lost my bank card, and then WAIT FOR IT: in a fit of nervousness one evening I picked the magnetic strip off LSB’s bank card and rendered it useless. Of course this occurs in the week when we have the Small Child’s First Communion, when I need cash to pay for the lasagne that I can’t be bothered to cook; I need cash to give as gifts, and then suddenly I need cash for every other flipping thing under sun.

So I ring the Nationwide Helpline for lost and stolen cards (and psycho mummies who couldn’t find their arse with both hands.) I get Clive*, who exhibits the same willingness to help as Boris’s willingness to apologise for historic crimes. His tone is flat as I fail to understand a question. ‘I’m going to repeat this a second time,’ he says with a sigh, and then, because I’ve clearly annoyed him tells me that no,  I’ve failed to answer the security questions so no, he can’t order me another card.

‘Please, can I try again?’ I say. ‘I’m just very frazzled.’

‘Ring again, my hands are tied,’ says Clive.

‘Can you at least tell me that someone hasn’t already used it and emptied my account?’ I say, in desperation, hopping about on one leg trying to put my sandals on as we got ready to leave for the church on Friday morning.

‘No I can’t,’ says Clive and tells me to ring customer services again so I can waste another 15 minutes of my life being put on hold,  listening to shite music and a billion phone options. At this point LSB deftly stepped in and relieved me of the phone as he sensed that Clive was about to get a tirade of abuse. ‘No need for that,’ said LSB, sending me downstairs where he had the hair straighteners warming to do my hair.

He’s good like that, is LSB: properly in tune with his feminine side. When I pulled him in to Solstene Grene on Saturday I said to him, this is where you may want to just lop off your bollocks with a pair of secateurs, but he didn’t seem to mind in the least.

(We’d only gone into town so I could go to to the Nationwide, where, incidentally, the lady at door was so maternal and kind as she sorted me out that my eyes filled up and I nearly had a wee cry.)

Sometimes folks, you just aren’t feeling it. I think I am just very, very tired of things being arse-about-face, and I need some good news. I need the promise of a holiday; some quality time with LSB without wondering what the hell the children are up to, and hoping that a cat hasn’t taken a shit in the bath (again).

Be kind to yourselves everyone. Nothing is normal, yet the pressure is on. Does anyone remember an Irish Furstenburg advert from the early nineties which was a series of conversations all spliced together? At one point a fella is saying ‘ALL I SAID WAS,’  as a prelude to another person losing their shit.  I think that neatly encapsulates how life is right now. It may just be one thing, but it’s plonked down on top of a festering quagmire of what other people have said or done (or not done,) or just life in general being a total fucker. We’re all struggling, and in these circumstances, why wouldn’t we be?

With this in mind, we maybe need to take a second and remember what we’ve all just lived through. We are a whole lot tougher than we give ourselves credit for. Yes, at times we may feel like something the dog just puked up, but we’re all here, getting our shit done. And if we need a good cry sometimes or to take a duvet day, then so be it. Let’s all just mind our heads.

And as always, a massive thank you to everyone one of you who reads my blog- whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter or on the blog itself. It really helps me to have this as a form of therapy. Anne Enright, bless her, says that regardless of whether you ever write a book, sitting a a desk and writing regularly will change you. I don’t know if it makes me any more sane, but I find that writing helps, and if  what I put down manages to resonate with anyone then that is a massive bonus. Thank you for giving me space to vent and taking time to read.

You can read my other musings on Mental Health here.

*Names have been changed to protect the guilty

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SWB on wet Bank Holidays

It is nine-thirty on Bank Holiday Monday, and it is properly shitting it down outside. The children have been awake for hours, according to LSB, who already looks as though he’s a put in a night shift down a mine. He has been woken three times in the night, twice by a cat and once by a dog, although I imagine a bladder full of Rioja may also have played a part.

The doorbell rings and it is a little friend wanting the children to go and play. LSB looks more relieved than Boris when something other than his curtains makes the news, but I am having none of it. ‘Snap time!’ I say.  I’ve mentioned before before that growing up in the eighties, as if the backdrop of the Troubles wasn’t enough, what passed for light entertainment was learning capital cities. A friend gave me a rake of snap cards- fractions and Spanish words and my absolute favourite- ‘world snap’. Fifteen countries are represented by a capital, a flag, an outline on the map and their name. It’s trickier than it sounds. Take New Zealand and Australia, for example. Limited imagination there when it came to flag design. They could, in my book have slapped on a kiwi or a kangaroo for differentiation, if only to appeal to small children when they are being forced to play a game because their mummy is a teacher and doesn’t  know how to relax.

We set up the game and begin. The Small Child keeps picking up the same card, directly in front of her: it is Russia. ‘Is Russia really that big?’ I ask LSB. He nods. ‘No wonder it thinks it owns the place,’ I say.

‘Russia, you are really annoying me,’ says the child. ‘That’s what the rest of the world has been saying for last hundred years,’ I reply darkly. The Older one lifts China. ‘Now it’s their time to annoy,’ says LSB. This is a game which operates on so many levels. It’s all taken a rather dark, apocalyptic turn, for a gloomy morning, in the shadow of a pandemic.

The Older Child has the attention span of a gnat and has yet to find a pair. This is because between goes, she is launching herself off the sofa. ‘This is not a day for ending up in the Royal,’ I tell her. ‘It will be full of drunk people with bloody faces. It would be the absolute end of me,’ I can tell that in her opinion, it would be preferable to being here, with us, and this game.

Spoiler alert

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LSB’s eyes have taken on a sort of dazed impression, some might say dead. ‘I give up,’ he says, ‘I’m H’.

‘It’s too soon,’ I tell him sharply. I’m not ready to joke about the finale of Line of Duty, and can’t help but feel that the pay off wasn’t sufficiently explosive. There wasn’t even a shoot out, or the risk of Arnott being gunned down or a sickening, surprising, twist. Could do better, would be my consensus.

30 minutes later we are still playing. ‘BOLLOCKS,’ I shout, when I pick up New Delhi for the umpteenth time. ‘Bollocks,’ says the Small Child gleefully when she too, fails to make a pair. I won’t let anyone leave the table, although the older Child has definately (see what I did there, LoD fans?) left in mind by now, if not in body. ‘No, THAT’S Ottowa, not that one. That’s Jerusalem,’  says LSB, moving my hand as it hovers over the wrong card. The aim now is not for anyone to win, just to make it end. I realise that I too, have the attention span of a dung beetle.

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SWB on a New Look Blog

Hi SourWee Readers, you may have noticed that we have given the blog a makeover. I say ‘we ‘, but as I’m completely inept at all thing technical, it was of course LSB who got busy: he is truly living up to the acronym these days, the poor fella. Let me know what you think of it-  I wanted to make it brighter and cleaner. Not the language, obviously: it remains the same, these are tough times, and sure, what’s an expletive or two between friends?

I’m going to start sharing more of my writing on the blog, in addition to my usual rants about whatever is annoying me. Today I’m including a piece which the good people at The Porch, an online American magazine,  published  last week. It’s all about grief and our different coping mechanisms, so it may be useful to some. If you fancy a read of it follow the link here.

As you know, I much prefer behind behind the screen, as opposed to in front of it, but I’ve put on my big-girl-pants and started to make videos on IGTV. It’s all my usual fare: eco tips, book reviews and yesterday’s offering is on fashion. Honestly, there’s something  I never expected- ‘SWB on what to wear’.  Still, I don’t think Jess Carter-Morley need worry, about her day job yet.

I won’t be doing any more videos today as I’m still glad in tracksuit bottoms, with the hair scraped back and no make-up. Clip of me that I am, I have inevitably met twenty people that I know so far today; one of whom I haven’t seen in an eternity. ‘Bless her,’ he was probably thinking, ‘she hasn’t aged well.’ It’s like the vaccination centre all over again where I thought: ‘God, everyone looks a quare bit older than me here,’ but they were likely eying my wrinkly visage and thinking the same. To be honest, I kinda wished I’d partied a bit harder in my twenties- If I’d known what lay ahead of us I may as well have pulled a few more all-nighters, Anyway, thank God for dim lighting and phone filters. I’m off now to rake the garden a bit- isn’t that what all of us in the forty plus bracket are doing nowadays?

 

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SWB on insomnia

I am dropping balls all over the place. I cannot, at this precise moment, even SEE the ball. The ball has been booted so far off the pitch it has landed in some dense, thicketty undergrowth, where it may lie, undetected, for a while.

When my children are being little ingrates, I tell myself to cut them some slack. ‘They’ve had a hard time,’ I say, when my gut feeling is to rage and shout and throw their Nintendo Switch into the black bin. But what, I think, about cutting ourselves some slack? No one has lived through a pandemic in generations. All of this is stressful, confusing, frightening. Even when I think I’m doing ok, I am swiftly reminded that perhaps I am not, because I forget everything. I can’t keep dates in my head: even the magnetic chart on the fridge isn’t helping, as I blunder along.

Last night we went to bed early. ‘Isn’t this marvellous,’ I said to LSB, as I carefully arranged myself, so as not to poke the greyhound in the eye with my toe. ‘In bed, at 10-25 on a Monday, with the dishes done and the counter cleared.’ (I’m telling you, doesn’t pillow talk just ROCK in our house?) ‘Brilliant,’ said he, and immediately fell asleep. THE BASTARD. How do men do that?

Well, I totally jinxed myself, didn’t I? I read a bit. I turned off the light. I took deep, meditative breaths. Nothing. I might add that I was very, very tired, but regardless, no sleep was forthcoming. I blamed the tee-shirt I was wearing so I tip-toed to the bathroom and put on a different nightdress and drank some water. Still sleep evaded me.

On the mind whirled. I sat up with a jolt and remembered that the girls were supposed to be at ballet today. Or were they? I couldn’t ask LSB because he was asleep. I tossed around a bit and made exaggerated sighs to see if I could wake him up. It didn’t work. I cursed myself for being useless: this was the third thing I’d forgotten this week. My thoughts turned to asparagus. I hadn’t bought any fresh vegetables. The one remaining pepper I had left left was fried up between the four of us. That, in my book, is not a sufficient amount, because we need all the antioxidants we can get right now.

I fell asleep and woke at four, the blueish hue of dawn filtering through the blinds and the birds revving up into a full-throttle appreciation of the day. Along came the magpies, little f**kers that they are, stomping and strutting on the roof above my head. The fat cat mewed dejectedly outside. I considered just getting up and making spaghetti Bolognese, but then remembered that I had no carrots to add to the pot. God, I’m shite at this mothering business, I thought.

I finally drifted off after five and slept til seven, but you know what? I’d have been better getting up and making the blasted Bolognese because of the wretched, anxiety ridden dreams I had. I kid you not, a Walker’s Crinkle Cut Crisp boasted fewer lines than my face this morning, before I set about filling in the cracks.

As it turned out, the girls had no ballet as it doesn’t start until May, so I got that wrong. But the problems fizzing around in my head at 2am faded into insignificance upon waking. Obviously I’m not really bothered about the ballet or the vegetables or my abilities as a mum. I’m just stressed to fuck because of the year that’s been in it. It’s made me a bit madder than normal and lacking in all perspective. But we should go easier on ourselves: this is still rocky terrain as we dare to dream of normality. Be kind to your wee discombobulated selves and I’ll try to do the same.

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SWB reacts to lockdown lifting

The Older Child’s violin teacher must think highly of manners, because I keep forgetting when she’s doing her lessons by Facetime, so when he rings my mobile I invariably lift it and shriek: ‘OH FUCK!’ when she’s no where in the vicinity.  I misread his text last week and thought he was able to do his lessons in person down at the school. There was the child waiting with her wee violin case in hand, while he was ringing me from his home in Donaghadee. Civil fellow that he is, he scheduled another one for the following evening at half-six. Inevitably, I forgot. She was frolicking in a friend’s garden when he called. ‘OH FUCK!’ I said, setting off down the road at speed, clutching my phone. There he was on Facetime, seeing the hedges and footpaths of my street as I hurtled along. ‘I’ll just ring back in five,’ said he. ‘Much better idea,’ I panted. I’m really not wise: this whole year has my head more mashed than the spuds for your Sunday roast.

All over Northern Ireland parents have been heaving deep sighs of relief as their progeny return to their leisure activities. My friend was down at Cherryvale Park on Friday night and with everyone back on the pitches in the sunshine, she said it was almost carnivalesque. Most people are thrilled with this dose of normality – all, of course, except me. (‘Not like you to be a contrarian, SWB,’ I hear you say.) This last while I have formed a close attachment to my sofa. We were always on good terms, but now, our relationship has deepened into Siamese twin like territory. Asking me to postphone my opportunity to rest with a book or watch Firefly Lane, especially OF AN EVENING, and I take that as a truly awful imposition.

There were, apart from the pestilence and disruption, elements of last year which appealed to me very much. As a parent, it turns out I am inherently lazy, and what threatens to push me beyond the levels of my endurance, is having to be at a particular place at a specific time. Take today (Sunday) for example. The Small Child has football training at 12pm while her sister’s training starts at one.  So far so good, except she has a piano lesson at 12-30. Through some manoeuvring on the part of her kindly teacher, I have managed to put this back to 12-20. In the middle of this, I have a tennis lesson at one. Nothing, will ever come between me and my tennis lesson, because I spent my entire childhood thinking I was shite at all sports, and now that I can actually hit a ball over the net,  I’m not giving up.  (My instructor practically puts the ball in my lap, to be fair, but trust me, this is still progress.) If all this to-ing and fro-ing doesn’t sound like a day’s work, then I don’t know what does.

LSB sensed my trepidation about lockdown lifting, so he bought a magnetic fridge organiser. Even with our chart, which LSB has neatly divided into sections, (complete with a marker with a magnetic strip for handy fridge adhesion), I still feel stressed. ‘Let’s talk it through again,’ I said to him last night, as I tried to get the pick ups and drop offs sorted in my head. ‘Hostage handovers have been negotiated with less fanfare,’ he sighed.

Well, it was worth making the list and checking it twice because it is now 4-30 pm  and everyone has been deposited where they need to be and I even did a shop and got the bottles recycled. My back hand is improving and there’s a chicken waiting to go in the oven. Man, I am ON FIRE.  And guess what, I’m celebrating by sitting back down on the trusty sofa, tea in hand. That is what I call a result.