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SWB causes chaos

So basically, I’m a bit of a twat. Let me expand.


The day before we were coming home was blustery, and the children and I were as unsettled as the weather. I was still mortified after the body boarding incident, and irked that I wasn’t stronger, even after all the ‘Building muscle for peri-menopausal women’ videos on Instagram I’d watched.


Off we headed for dinner, but a surge of new arrivals at the campsite meant that the usually well-organised system in the restaurant was in disarray. The mood, having been buoyant for the rest of the holiday, took a downward turn, and my luke-warm glass of sauvignon blanc did little to boost my spirits. (I don’t care that it’s from the local vineyard, just put the fecking bottle in the fecking fridge. And leave it there, FFS.)


But after our pizza and a carafe of more temperate red arrived, things started to improve. The children even looked up from their screens and made conversation. It had, we all agreed, been a great trip, and we were sad to be leaving France.


That’s when a French couple were shown to the table beside us with a very cute, but very boisterous collie pup. Delighted with himself he was, wee tail going a dinger as everyone smiled and looked up from their dinners as the bouncy little fellow arrived.


‘Would the couple mind,’ I asked, ‘if we stroked the pup?’ And then a brain wave struck; given how long the desserts were likely to take to arrive, perhaps my husband could take the pup on a dander and the girls could stretch their legs?


The couple were overjoyed. No bother at all! Someone had already taken their children so they could have a meal in peace! What had they done to deserve it?! We all laughed merrily and I smiled as my family were despatched.


Ten minutes, I thought. Just ten minutes to read my book, and look forward to a sundae for pudding, coconut and vanilla ice cream, doused with Malibu and slathered with fresh cream. (It’s becoming  clear why I couldn’t master the paddle boarding, as it had been a fortnight of such indulgences.)


I read a chapter, then another. By the time I began the third I was beginning to worry. No waiter either to take an order, so I wasn’t pleased. Enter a small panicked child. In tears. People were shouting at Daddy, saying he’d stolen the dog. Out I went and there was LSB,  clinging to the dog’s lead while surrounded by a fractious crowd, a camp security guard and two members of the animation team looking at him accusingly.

‘WALKING,’ LSB was shouting, trying to be heard over the din. ‘I’m WALKING LE CHIEN!’


The child of the couple had seen their dog being walked by a stranger and gone berserk. Out came the dad to settle matters, but the on-lookers still looked at us with suspicion and disdain.


LSB was shaken up by the whole affair. Initially I thought it the baying crowd which had upset him, but it transpired that the pup had bitten him. Twice. The child had tried to unclip the dog from the lead LSB was holding, and in the furore, it had nipped him on the arm and the leg. ‘Now I have to go home and get a f**king tetanus jab,’ he said, seething.


He was wrong. He needed FOUR jabs. The following Monday, at the Urgent Care at Lagan Valley Hospital, they took it all VERY seriously. He had one injection in each arm, plus seven day’s worth of antibiotics. Next month he needs another jab, and a final one in September. He had never been immunised for Tetanus before, hence this battery of precautions.


I thought I would be properly in the dog house (pardon the pun), but he was remarkably sanguine about it all, once we got home. I was on chatting to Frank Mitchell about the potential hazards of holidays, and he got the whole story. The pup was a bit of a headcase, I explained. ‘Let’s call a spade a spade,’ said Frank. ‘The pup wasn’t the headcase. Stevey wasn’t the headcase, I think we know exactly who’s to blame here.’


The moral of the story (aside from having an up-to-date tetanus booster) is not to get tipsy and garrulous and volunteer your husband to walk other people’s pets. ‘If I ever suggest the like of that again, just tell me to f**k up,’ I told Stevey. ‘Awk, I won’t say that,’ he replied, ‘I’ll just say, ‘Remember France.’

I’m not likely to forget for a while.


SWB makes a fool of herself

(not how I looked..)

It had all been going so well. Too well, perhaps. I was beginning to feel a tiny bit of smugness creeping in, as in ‘Just maybe, as both children have reached double digits, I’m learning to master family holidays. Then I had to go and ruin it.

Poor auld LSB. I’ve told him, if he wants to leave me, I will be very sad but I’ll understand. I’ve brought it upon myself with my foolishness.

It was the last full day of the trip, and a breeze whistled its way through the campsite. We were roused by the clatter of pinecones thudding down on the tin roof of the caravan, and stepping out unto the porch I set about retrieving a few pairs of pants which I’d washed and inexpertly pegged to the clothes horse.

It was an odd choice then, to decide to go paddle boarding. ‘Sure, we’ll see what it’s like at the beach,’ I said, optimistically. The man though, who rented the boards, said it was fine, once you got over the first waves at the water’s edge, it was calmer. It was our only chance if we wanted to have a go, because the waves would reach 2 metres later on in the afternoon and he was shutting up shop. Down at the shore a couple of children played on body boards and one fellow was out paddling; I reckoned we’d be fine. LSB WAS fine. Once he wrestled his way out it was surprisingly peaceful, and he even managed to stand up, and looked competent, one could almost say poised and athletic.

When it came time to swap though, I was less so, and even when I reached the calmer water my legs were so shaky, I could barely kneel on the board, never mind stand. Anxious of appearing like the twat I was; dishevelled and incapable in front of the elegant French people sunning themselves on the sand, I determined to paddle inwards. ‘Feck this,’ I thought. As I scooped ineffectually at the water a wave swelled behind me, and sent me catapulting off. Immediately after I’d hauled my hefty-self back on, another crashed into the board and away I went again. This time, It took a while for me to reappear, causing some consternation from Himself, looking nervously out sea, For someone with a dodgy back and pelvis, wrestling with waves and boards isn’t something I’d recommend.

Out LSB swam to save me, all purposeful and Mitch Buchanan-like. ‘All the upper strength work at the gym has paid off,’ he said, taking the board and retrieving the oar and untying the safety leash from my ankle. I swam back to shore, but was so battered by the elements I could barely get ,myself in, and washed up like a bloated walrus on the sand, after dropping to my hands and knees to clamber in. The French sunbathers looked on, making only minimal efforts to  camouflage their smirks. I sat there, coughing up yet more salt water and discreetly shook a load of pebbly sand from my bikini bottoms. LSB dragged the board in and plonked down beside me. ‘Where’d I be without you?’ I asked, sheepishly. ‘Halfway to Morocco, I expect,’ he replied.

(SWB pictured post paddle board)

These were only the events of Saturday morning, so tune in to the blog later in the week to read how I disgraced myself in the evening. No shortage of entertainment here (unless, of course, you’re LSB.)




SWB on Handling Holidays with Care

Jess Carter-Morley wrote a great piece in The Guardian recently on how to holiday like a pro. One piece of sage advice I took to heart was to have a rest BEFORE the holiday. (I would take it further and suggest a couple of days either end, should one have the luxury.) Be honest though, how often have you spent the first few days pulsing with such adrenalin that relaxation is off the cards completely?

We had a break in Portugal back in May, and what with work beforehand, we didn’t board our Easyjet flight well-rested and serene. LSB had the beginnings of a stye, red and angry on his left eyelid. ‘The sun will help it,’ I said optimistically, ‘it’ll be gone by tomorrow!’ Alas my positivity was unfounded and it continued to grow in size and ferocity. (Previously to this I had taken a rash in my armpits as a reaction to a new deodorant. Together we resembled Middle Age plague victims.)

Despite his distress, because as well as looking revolting it was, apparently, very painful, I set about organising activities. Who wants to go dolphin watching? I asked. Zero interest. Who fancies a coastal grotto tour? Sub-zero interest. Who wants to play in a freezing pool and splash me while I read the new Marian Keyes? Well, that was right up the children’s street, obviously, so I perched by the chilly poolside, wondering how if 11am, was too early to get tore into a Verdejo. Meanwhile, LSB lay up in the room with a teabag on his eyelid, which was of no use whatsoever because the trick is to apply said teabag before the lid has swelled to the size of a leprechaun’s scrotum.

It wasn’t a remotely relaxing holiday. First of all, I forgot my driver’s licence, so LSB had to do all the driving, with only one functioning eye. He did very well, considering. I can only relax when I feel I DESERVE to relax, I feel I have to EARN the wine and crisps and ice-cream. The day I dragged everyone rock-climbing, for example, I felt I could really enjoy my Argentinian steak with a carafe of Malbec that evening.

Carter-Morley also suggests that one has realistic goals and expectations of a holiday. The problem is, for me, that a holiday for LSB means having the chance to sit on his arse and relax. The highlight for him last year in France, was reading a book on the shady terrace of the caravan we rented. Delighted with himself he was, sipping a beer and chortling away to himself at some shite on his phone. I, on the other hand, was like Tigger on amphetamines. What will we do next? Kayak? Paddle board? Who wants to do aqua-aerobics? Apparently, I’m rather annoying.

We are presently on holiday again, and this time, I’m a different type of annoying. LSB is minus stye and in better humour, and we are with my friend in Barcelona, hanging out with her bulldog, Jason. Aside from my pidgin Spanish, I feel like a native, wandering around the barrio with my trusty hound. And instead of complaining and being sour, I keep telling LSB, Isn’t this WONDERFUL? But isn’t it? Isn’t it really? When are we coming back?’ The superlatives just keep on flowing. ‘You’re kind of a person of extremes,’ aren’t you, opined the Small Child, with a degree of insight.

I think though, there is a solution at hand, and the solution is to be learnt from the Spanish. Here most Spaniards have a ‘horario de verano’ which means they work fewer hours in July and then the month of August OFF. The district of Sarrià, where we are at the moment, is like a ghost town in August because most locals head to the coast or to the Pyrenees.  If I wasn’t trying to cram all the things I want to do into a short period of time, I would be much happier because I wouldn’t feel such pressure and could actually relax: I’d be neither hyper Helen nor hyperbolic Helen. Happily, as  long as a decent beer is at hand, LSB is can generally cope with both.




SWB feels the heat

It’s a short blog this week and the theme is MIND YOURSELVES.  June is a desperate month altogether for fractious behaviour, or it is in the world of education anyway. I speak from bitter experience. I don’t know whether it’s circadian rhythms, fatigue, or just the fact that I’m a crabbed auld bitch, but any serious altercations I’ve ever had, with friends, family or work colleagues, have kicked off either round June or Christmas-time.

It makes sense, doesn’t it? No one makes good decisions when tired or over-stretched. When thus pressurised, the sensible part of my brain, the part that reins in my baser instincts, goes into retreat, and the irrational side reigns supreme. There are too many people to please, too many demands, too many looming deadlines.

A friend of mine who is normally quite unflappable, admitted to feeling exactly the same way, saying that June always has a similar frenzied feel to Christmas, with its raft of social engagements and accompanying expectations. She, however, is a sweet-natured sort, who doesn’t go round insulting folk when they annoy her. I, on the other hand, can’t seem to help myself. I’ve told people they are rude, insufferable, and bereft of manners. Once, instead of just saying ‘No thank you,’  to a kindly woman who enquired if I’d like to work in her (albeit rather tough school,) I retorted, ‘I’d rather die.’ There wasn’t a bit of need for it, but I was so beside myself with exhaustion that I didn’t even register how rude I’d been.

And now, we’re in June again, and the tension is tingling at my temples as the strain of the year takes hold.

The usual stress factors have been ratcheted up a notch too, since we’re existing practically in tropical climes, minus any decent air-con or swimming pools in our back yards in which to cool off. Usually I long for warmer weather, but reality is a cruel mistress, and spending hours each week cooped up in a classroom has been testing, to say the least.

So take heed from one who has f**ked up aplenty, and don’t ask too much of yourselves. Say no to things. Pour a glass of something cool, elevate your puffy ankles and allow time for some respite; better to bite your tongue once than spend the summer licking a multitude of wounds.



SWB on being in the moment

Anyone else feel like they need a wee holiday away from their phone? The realisation hit me the other day when I realised that I’d watched ten TikTok videos back to back on cleaning hacks. One of these clips featured, and I kid you not,  a ‘professional cleaner fromWisconsin’ who had the ground-breaking idea of lifting the loo roll holder and toilet brush off the floor to clean under them,  instead of cleaning AROUND them. Swear to God, this was the crux of her video. I mean, who knew? I watched several reels on oven cleaning. I am never going to clean my own oven. Even if my state of penury dictates that I’ve to subsist on baked beans for a solid month and endure the fall-out from my small intestine, I will still be ringing Sam the Oven Man and giving him fifty quid for his expertise.

Emma Brockes, one of my favourite writers from the Guardian, has been ruminating on a similar topic this week, when she discovered the accidental pleasure of taking her children to the park minus her phone. Her first reaction was one of panic (oh, how I can identify!) but in the end she rather enjoyed it. She was interested in seeing where her mind wandered, when not fixated on a little pixellated screen. Birds mainly (and not angry ones), was where it went, and she enjoyed watching a few sparrows have the craic. She surprised herself with how enjoyable it was, noticing the sun on her face and the sense of relief, really, at just allowing herself to be ‘off’ for a while. Her twins too, noticed her new found calm and ask that she leave the phone at home in future.

I can dentified with this t. Sometimes I look at  the cherry blossom and wish I could just appreciate the candyfloss-ish loveliness of it, instead of working out how best to capture it on camera. In Fuengarola a few years back (a surprisingly nice town by the way, and not  deserving of the slating it gets.) the kids and I found a park which was home to an abundance of bright green parrots. Noisy little buggers they were too, and most industrious, flitting from tree to tree, squawking away merrily. I sipped café con leche while taking in the scene. A pigeon pecked at crumbs nearby and I noticed he had a banjaxed foot, but still strutted around with as much dignity as he could muster. He was there again the next day. We have a habit of naming creatures we met and the go-to name is Cedric, but given his Spanish heritage we christened him Cedriqué. We still think of him fondly.

I’m not saying we should ditch our phones all time. It feels like a win to catch up on jobs and the never ending ‘What’s App groups when we get five minutes. It’s hard to win at this mothering lark. You’re either vilified as a helicopter parent for being hyper-vigilant, or neglectful when you’re not hanging on their every word and applauding loudly when they scale the climbing frame. I do worry though, that there will be a generation of kids with issues because every time they shouted ‘Watch me mummy!’ mum was watching a ‘Get Ready with Me!’ video and missing the first time they broke the land speed record going down the slide. At least therapists in twenty year’s time will be raking it in.

Send me your thoughts, and I’ll try to check them when I’m not in the presence of a child and likely to be accused of ignoring them.


SWB puts a sock (or two) in it

Friday afternoon was gloriously sunny. As I gazed out my window in work the dappled light caught the dancing leaves of the trees. (The Japanese call this ‘komorebi’ and I love that I know this). Amid this moment of bucolic calm after a busy week, my thoughts turned not to an appreciation of the clement weather, but to laundry. It occurs to me that if LSB can fling on a load, I can have it hung out while there’s still some heat in the air. It can then finish drying indoors as the sun warms the front of the house in the evening. There’s no better household aesthetic than a clothes horse erected in the living room for bystanders to see as they pass.  And so I picked up the phone and issued instructions. A 30 degree wash, I tell him, and use the laundry egg, because at 30 degree the capsules from SMOL don’t melt and we end up with gloopy bits stuck around our pants and I don’t want chemicals, (however mild they may be) around my privates.


I rarely let LSB near the washing because he is, in short, a liability. He doesn’t separate colours so everything emerges tinged blue or pink. He fecks the delicates in with more robust items and massacres them. Last week he successfully managed the washing of his nice hoodie from Rapanui, only to fling it into the spin dryer without due care, resulting in two large holes in the sleeve.


But I have to accept some  blame because I’ve made the laundry a total palaver. First is the over-complication of cleaning products, choosing either egg or detergent. The drying process also has several steps, starting with a turn in the spin dryer. Next, it’s small items on the whirly-gig which hangs in the laundry room, and any extras over a radiator, before bigger items are slung on the line outside. This process is often thwarted by cats parading in and out, demanding food as the laundry room doubles as their feeding space. I’ve been known to trip over the bastards in the process. When the items are almost dry, I then give them a 10 minute turn in the tumble drier.


In an effort to reduce the toll all this takes on the planet, what enters the washing machine is subjected first to scrutiny. One cannot for instance assume, that if a child has plopped an item into the laundry basket, that it is, in fact dirty. I thus exercise a swift ‘sift and sniff’ policy, (underwear excluded.) They may have worn it once for twenty minutes and chucked it in the basket instead of a drawer, so I always check. Heavy items, such as hoodies, demand a closer look, and if not too stinky, then I take a sponge to the sleeves and any stains.


Jeez Louise I’m exhausted just writing this, so I’m going to stop because I could go on, and on, like an endless forty-degree cycle.  Last night though, I’m pleased to say that while LSB was glued to the new Zelda game, the children and  I put away two massive piles of clean clothes and barring three rogue ones, every single sock found it’s partner! It’s truly the small wins that keep us going, right?




SWB on the perils of footwear

I met my friend last night at an event. As she turned to speak me she turned her body a full 180 degrees instead of just inclining her head. ‘I’ve hurt my back,’ she explained, ‘falling UP the stairs.’ She tripped about three steps up, lost her balance and fell awkwardly. Her family came running to find her sprockled in the hallway. ‘Don’t move!’ ordered her son, who, 18 months into his St John’s Ambulance training, is the self-appointed medic in the house. ‘It could be a spinal injury,’ he added, which didn’t reassure my friend, who was hoping that no more than her pride was hurt. Happily she suffered no lasting damage and is just a bit stiff and sore. The culprit for her tumble? Her slippers. Readers, take this column as your friendly public service broadcast, and invest in a pair of solid, grip-soled, well-fitting house shoes. Google ‘slipper related injuries’  and articles such as ‘Beware of the Slipper’ appear, advising that one exercises great caution when considering the choice of indoor footwear. It advises particularly against ‘bulky out-sized novelty slippers,’ (these are unwise apparel for housework, it counsels), but number one risk is ‘tumbling downstairs’, as my friend can unfortunately attest.

You know what else are lethal? Fleecy socks, the type advertised with cuddly bears in pastel shades on the label which nauseatingly read, ‘cosy up, it’s snuggle-time!’ These should be banned, if you ask me. I speak with some authority on the matter, because for reasons best known only to himself, my husband donned a thick pair of socks when we were entertaining over the holidays. Yes, Easter this year was uncharacteristically nippy, but why he deemed them necessary I’m not sure. Anyhoo, treacherous socks combined with the frictionless surface of our tiled bathroom floor proved a bad combination. Down he went like a sack of spuds, emitting a blood-chilling howl, at 12.05, having nodded off on the sofa. Full disclosure folks; drink had been taken. He has a tendency to down red wine as a parched child would guzzle Ribena at a soft-play area, but sadly for him, our downstairs loo afforded no such padded surfaces. He thinks he may have cracked a rib. Listening to him bleat on about it has been a joy, I assure you. He claims that the socks were definitely more responsible than the shiraz and they have been since consigned to the fabric bin at Ormeau Recycling Centre.

It’s not just footwear which can prove treacherous. Once one reaches a certain age, chronic pain can be precipitated by the most harmless-sounding activities. Two of friends have recently fallen victim to frozen shoulders and tennis elbow respectively. Both of these are entirely un-sport related, and were induced by knitting. Yes, knitting. ‘What are you made of, cotton wool?’ asked one of their less than sympathetic daughters. ‘It was rather a chunky yarn,’ one of them admitted, who was fashioning a cable-knit cardigan for her son, ‘and I did hurry myself to get it finished.’ I never had knitting down as an extreme sport, but sure, you read it here first.

I’d say we’re best up doing nothing, just sitting on the sofa nursing cups of tea, but the floor is better for all your joints apparently, and scalds from kettles are on the rise too. If you’ve any ideas for risk-free pursuits, do get in touch. I’m all ears.



SWB on Entertaining

Is there such a thing as stress-free entertaining? Not in my experience, although it’s something I do so often I should be a regular virtuoso by now. According to a recent survey by Tesco, the most anxiety provoking thing is having a clean, tidy house before the deluge of guests arrives. I agree entirely; there is always a certain point, usually thirty minutes before the ring-a-ding-ding heralds the visitors’ arrival, that my jaw sets into a rictus grin and I start barking commands between my teeth.

‘Put the shoes AWAY!’ ‘Get a hand towel for the bathroom!’ ‘No, that’s a BATHMAT!’ ‘Yes, there IS a difference!’

Hairbrushes and bills and pens are swept off the counter into bags which end up under a pile of random detritus and remain lost for weeks. LSB scuttles about lighting candles in an effort to create ambiance and calm my nerves. ‘Would you like a drink?’ he asks in a hopeful tone, which is just an excuse for him get tore in, under the guise of placating me.

Another stress-factor for would-be hosts, is the worry that the food they offer up will be sub-standard. An old friend of ours used to regale us with stories about her pal who was an appalling cook, but undeterred by her lack of culinary prowess, still entertained regularly. ‘Can you eat your avocado?’ whispered a fellow diner at one of her suppers, ‘because mine’s like a bloody brick.’

But worse I feel, than serving up inedible food, is not serving up enough food. Scorched into my brain in high resolution is the memory of relatives coming for lunch one Easter Tuesday. I still wince when I think about it. Ill-advisably, I had hosted a dinner for neighbours the night before. All Lenten restraint was abandoned, the effects of which I felt deeply the following morning. Incapable of rational thought, I unwisely exhorted my aunt and her family to come. I was keen to show them my new kitchen extension, which I told them was perfect for entertaining. Rule number one though, when inviting people for lunch, is to ensure you have something to feed them. Given that my brain resembled rump steak to which a meat tenderiser had been applied, I didn’t conduct a stocktake. Before they arrived, I peeked under the tin-foiled plates in the fridge, thinking I still had generous portions of quiche and dessert left. Nope, just a subdued looking slice of pie that a child had clearly poked at. I had one pizza and a limp-looking salad. LSB was back at work, and couldn’t be summoned from his desk, because he had a shite holiday allocation back then. There was thus no one to conduct an emergency run to M&S. As I produced this paltry fare, my children, who were small and usually sparrow-like in their eating habits, swiftly demolished most of the pizza. I had to root about in the fridge until I found a tub of soup|: I still wince at the memory.

Later, I relayed the debacle to The Mothership, who was horrified at the scant offerings I had dished up to her relatives. She’s a country woman at heart, and if you don’t need hauled from your chair after a meal then she doesn’t consider it a job well done.

My tips then for stress free entertaining include avoiding doing so if your head feels like a bag of chisels. Secondly, the slow cooker is your friend. This recipe for beef and ginger is guaranteed to please and it’s best made in the morning, so as your guests arrive they are greeted by the scent of aromatic Asian fare that tastes as though you put a lot more work into it then you actually did. Serve it with perfectly cooked rice (2 cups of water to one cup of well-rinsed basmati) and dinner is served. I would dish this up with a fine bottle of Bardolino, a light Italian red which doesn’t thwack you in the head like a Malbec and is thus the perfect accompaniment to what is basically a meat stew. The Vineyard on Ormeau has some gorgeous varieties. Serve this up generously to your guests and coupled with the pale glow of candle light, no one will notice (nor care) about the cluttered corners and filthy windows you never got to.

Happy Easter all!




SWB meets the Boke-A-Tron

Perplexed that your step count has reached a paltry 7875 and fallen short of your daily milestone? Worry not! Perhaps your child will morph into the Boke-a-tron 2000 at 11.05 and send you scuttling up and down the stairs with boke soaked sheets, duvet and mattress cover. As you worry why the stench lingers even after vacuuming and mopping, more steps await when you discover THE DRAWER OF DOOM! That’s right, those handy storage devices that fit snuggly under the bed come into their own when your child is ill. Who needs a basin or similar receptable when a drawer left slightly ajar is perfectly placed when a stomach needs emptied sharpish.


After said child has been tucked up into your bed, with hugs and reassurances, now is the ideal time to survey the damage, and note how your holiday clothes and aspirational items, (the ones you hope to squeeze into again) are now liberally covered in gunk. Watch those steps mount as you shake the worst of it off outside before taking a sponge to them. Watch your heartrate soar on the little screen after you’ve loaded up the washing machine with soiled sheets, only for your other half to suggest that you wait til morning to put it on so it can ‘run off solar power.’ ‘Of course, it won’t stink out the drum,’ he says, ‘It’s self-cleaning!’ ‘Like fuck,’ you reply, but acquiesce since he’s not a bad spud and has volunteered to kip on the sofa since the Small Child will be taking his side.


Did you think a mere 1000 steps was all you were getting? Never fear! Turns out a ten year old’s stomach has an infinite capacity for half-digested Chicken with Ol’ El Paso Seasoning and now, it’s YOUR bed’s turn! And, you’ve guessed it, what does your bed share in common with the child’s little IKEA number? Oh yes, another DRAWER OF DOOM. This time, the consistency is less of a soup, more of a consommé, hence plenty of liquid to seep its way through to most of the contents. Extra calories can be burned off by unclipping the fitted sheet from the mattress suspenders and stripping a king-sized bed, before nipping back down the stairs again.*


Now it’s the turn of some upper strength training as you lift small, confused barfy child into the bath after they have ploughed through the sick. Finally, it’s time to burn some mental energy as you debate which blankets you care least about, to dress the bed lest there is, by some miracle, anything left to resurface. Only the joyful thought of the morning keeps you from sweet slumber, as you imagine the Great Wash of 2023, as you contemplate more loads of laundry than you ever deemed possible.


(In reality, the GW23 was even worse than anticipated, with cats scarpering in desperation as they thought that they too were going to be loaded in in with the clothes. Thank God for Stuart at The Washing Well, who took three loads, while my machine still went a dinger at home. It was a bad weekend to only to do the bare minimal and leave a backlog. That’ll teach me.)


*(Ironically we have 12 steps, the same number of a program I may have to embark upon if this hellscape should ever reoccur.)



SWB On Sound Rage

Do any of the following make you start grinding your teeth and clenching your jaw? Scraping, screeching, slurping, sniffing, snorting, slamming, (and those are just the sibilant ones.) Throat clearing, coughing, whistling, and in particular, that sort of through-the-teeth whistling, make me want to commit acts of violence.

Once, I stood behind a woman in the queue for customs at the International Airport. In an act of what I can only describe as utter misanthropy, she had chosen the buzzer from ‘Catchphrase’ as her message alert. As her texts came flooding in after the flight, her phone buzzed and chimed and dinged and it took a Herculean effort not to wrestle it  from her hand and crush it to bits, right on the ‘Welcome to Belfast’ mat.

When I’m stressed out or tired, my sensitivity to noise becomes unbearable. I have abandoned shopping trolleys in Sainsbury’s because of raucous children and the jingly-jangly ambient music which churns on in the background, on an endless loop. I’ve asked to move seats in cafes and restaurants when neighbouring customers shriek with laugher. More than once my dining companions have labelled me, ‘The Fun Police.’

As a student, I clambered on top of a wheelie bin and bashed at a security alarm with a golf umbrella, and only stopped when the police arrived and told me that should I continue they’d be forced to bring me in.

I couldn’t control my facial contortions at an erstwhile friend’s high-pitched cackle, and had to backpedal my way out of the friendship with as much delicacy as I could muster.

I was thus reassured to read an article in The Guardian about ‘misophonia’ which is an extreme reaction to sounds. It didn’t completely exonerate me, (because I admit that I am generally intolerant and pernickety,) but I felt understood and comforted that 18% of the UK population also experience a disproportionate reaction to certain noises.

‘You’re easily annoyed,’ was a refrain I heard often as a child. It wasn’t unjustified, because I was a crabbed article, by turns irked and aggrieved, but when it came to the noise issue, I wasn’t alone, and if anything, I was the most normal one in the family. The Mothership’s particular nemesis was the whirr of the extractor fan; while my dad harboured a hatred for the shrill ding-a-ling of the doorbell. Any slurping of tea at breakfast time had my brother apoplectic with rage.  Ironically, we lived next door to a drummer, which I think proves the point that if there is a God, she has a sense of humour.

Now, my misophonia is triggered by the aggressive purring of Bramble when he wants fed, especially when it’s so close to my face that I can feel the air from his little feline nostrils on my cheek. The crackling sound made by pupils when they  squeeze plastic water bottles when I try to teach them, is responsible for the frown lines on my forehead. Chairs scraping against the floor made me search the internet for chair socks. Basically, it’s not easy being me. There’s no collective noun for us misophones, but I’m going to suggest ‘a twitch’, although LSB prefers ‘a cacophony.’ Feel free to share your own peeves and vexations, to make me feel better about my own idiosyncracies.