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SWB gets Déjà Vu, in Second Hand September

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Why it pays to be a bit crap

So, I was just thinking: sometimes it pays to be a bit crap. Let me elaborate. Since coming home from my hols I was hit with a couple of deadlines and was thus a bit harried. Being harried meant I was tired and slower to rouse myself of a morning, and I tell you, this system is working a treat. Today, when I came down the stairs bleary-eyed at five to eight, the kitchen was a scene of great industry. Both children were hard at it, grating cheese, buttering crackers and filling water bottles. I watched as they carefully rinsed and dried their lunchboxes. Later, I saw that they had carefully decanted the Jacobs Cream Crackers into a Chinese takeaway box, to keep them fresh and crunchy.

There is a life lesson here: to be a lazier parent. Now, I’m not suggesting that we all go full on ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’, abandoning our youngsters in a shack on a marsh where they have to catch a fish if they want any dinner. I’ll draw the line there, but a bit of self-sufficiency wouldn’t go amiss.

Learning by consequence, that’s what the child experts are calling it. Case of point is when one of mine refused to wrestle herself into a wetsuit at the beach and was pure foundered, while all the others splashed about on their boogie boards. Next time she put it on her. The pair of them used to hate wearing wellies, so when we’d head to park on a wet winter’s day, their feet would be sodden. But wet toes meant that there was no stopping for hot choc in Kaffe-O as a treat on the way home. That didn’t please them.

Since I’m tired listening to myself now, I’ve decided to stop nagging, and let them be the victims of their own foibles.

You know yourself how exhausting it is, especially now.  Before we leave the house it’s all: ‘Do we have masks? Have we got poop bags for the dog? Where’s the car keys, and flip, did I put my phone in my bag?’ Cue much sighing and friction as the minutes pass by. It’s A LOT.

When we were down south in August, we also needed our  Vaccination Cards if we wanted to dine inside. Sometimes it took us three goes to get out of the hotel room. In the end, I decided that if I wanted any class of a holiday, the children had to step up and be responsible for their stuff.

Here’s another example of how being crap can be effective. I was listening to a podcast which featured a fellow who despite being smart, was chronically disorganised. We’ll call him Mike. Mike attended a networking event where he met an entrepreneur he’d always admired. They had a chat and the guy handed him his card and told him to give a ring. Mike was all delighted and pocketed the card and took it home, determined to ring the chap the next day. Except, you’ve guessed it, he promptly lost it. He pulled his apartment upside down and inside out hunting for said card*, but to no avail. He felt like a prize clampet.

Anyway, a month or so later and doesn’t he find the card, I can’t remember where, but it was somewhere daft, like in his medicine cabinet or something. So, he rings the businessman who doesn’t sound in the least bit irked that it took him so long to get back in touch. In fact, he actually sounds impressed, because it came across as though Mike wasn’t through-other at all, just busy; in demand, like he didn’t really need the contact.

I thought that story was quite interesting, but maybe it’s because I’d just love it if my mediocrity could be merrily glossed over, so instead of looking useless, I’d appear poised,  confident, a together sort of a person.

*Of course, this would NEVER happen to us because we’d all be well ahead of the game and would have taken a photo of the card on our phones and saved it. Immediately. (As if. I’d probably lose the fecking phone as well.)

That’s what I’m leaving you with today. Permission, should you need it, to be a bit rubbish. Turns out, it really pays.

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SWB takes her ill-temper on holiday

A holiday for me, roughly translated, just means that I can be a grumpy fucker outside Belfast too. You’ll know us, if you ever come across us on your travels, because we’re the crew looking perpetually bewildered. Always searching, rooting around in our bags, under tables, arses sticking out of the boot of our car. The pandemic has amplified the problem, because now we have masks and Covid vaccination cards to add to the mix. Most people, I am swiftly discovering, wear their masks up their arms in Galway. I keep thinking they are all stricken with a similar injury or are sporting bandages to cover up tattoos they now regret. I see the wisdom though, to stop them having to ferret about in their pockets or bags. I tempted to take up the ‘mask/arm band’ look myself to save me a lot of hassle.

 

This holiday I have been particularly fraught, and my packing was even worse than usual. This was so achievement, given that the children started packing mid-July. I didn’t dare get excited you see, since our first wee sojourn was cancelled at the start of the summer, when the Older One had to isolate. Crushed I was, when I saw them sadly returning their shorts and tee-shirts into the drawers. (Who am I trying to kid, they fired them onto the floor, it was I who put them in the drawers.)

 

So LSB neglected to bring flip flips and sunglasses and an extra pair of shorts. I got my denim skirt soaked when I blundered into the sea in Bundoran and a wave drenched me, so  had to buy a pair of shorts myself. I also forgot that my period tends to arrive on holiday. First day and I’m like, what is that? Surely not- can’t even be three weeks since the last one. But no mistaking, there it was, complete with swollen belly, cramps and constipation. And not a pad or pair of period pants in sight.

 

‘There’s a pharmacy across the road,’ sighed LSB. ‘Off you go.’ The pharmacy, alas, had a disappointing selection of products. ‘I’ve just started today,’ said an assistant, when I inquired if they had any plastic free tampons. They didn’t.  ‘I literally in the door, like five minutes ago,’ said the girl, so off I went, regaling her with the environmental benefits of period pants. ‘Wuka, they’re called,’ I informed her. ‘W-U-K-A.’   In through the door came the owner. ‘I’ll sort you out at the till,’ he says.  ‘Have you heard of period pants?’ I ask him. ‘They’re brilliant.’

 

‘I haven’t heard tell of such a thing,’ he says, shoving my purchases into a paper bag with an alarming rate.

 

‘There’s a woman up the road makes pads,’ comes a voice from the back of the shop, ‘she has a website.’

 

‘You should sell those in your shop,’ says I. ‘I would have bought them. Today.’

 

‘Right you are then,’ says the man. The children are beside me, dying a slow death.

 

Two days later, I discover a Super-Value about two hundred metres up the road. ‘Check this aisle out,’ says LSB, ‘you’ll love it’. He’s right, there’s a whole display with a rake of eco-friendly products, period stuff included. Bearna, it turns out, is the village you need when you’re after a Laundry Egg and a moon cup and plastic free inter-dental sticks.

 

Anyway, it was one of those periods which floors you, and you look, and feel like a sack of shite. Stricken thus, it is ill-advised to drink two glasses of NZ Sauvignon Blanc at lunchtime in Pádraicins Seafood Bar in Furbo with your bowl of mussels, especially if you don’t want to waste the rest of the beautiful afternoon because you’re fast asleep. I blame the beds in The Twelve. Way too fecking comfortable, and the perfect place to retreat when you feel rubbish.

 

Poor LSB- he’s waited all year for a holiday and a rest, when really, the poor fecker just needs a rest from me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SWB on things you never knew you needed

This is one that you may want to file under ‘Middle Class Moan’.

It probably says a lot about my parenting that when I say to the children, ‘Put the socks on the chairs’ they just get on with it, no questions asked.

It’s my nerves you see- I’m what you would call a fraught sort of individual.

I am THAT teacher, the one who shouts, ‘LIFT IT, DON’T DRAG’ when the bell goes, to spare me the scrape of thirty chairs being dragged across a wooden floor. I wince just thinking about that noise.

So, chair socks- I feel it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that they are indispensable to my mental well-being. Remember the time I decided to foster an assistance pup, and the girls were still so wee and there was piss and poo everywhere and it barked incessantly, and I ended up at the doctor’s two days before Christmas thinking I was having a breakdown?

Well, shortly after that a friend called in. She was a level-headed, together sort of a girl, who, as well as working as a GP part-time, did the lion’s share of bringing up two lively young boys, because her husband worked in the City Hospital ninety hours a week while also preparing for a shitload of oncology exams.

Anyway, she was over one afternoon drinking tea in my kitchen, when en masse, the children finished their juice and biscuits and leapt up off their seats to go and play. The abrasive sound of the chairs on the tiles set my nerves alight. ‘Chair socks,’ she said. ‘They’ll change your life.’

‘Do such things even exist?’ I asked, aware that my knitting skills weren’t up to the task.

‘They do,’ she said, ‘there’s not a chair in my house not wearing them.’

I mentioned them to LSB and didn’t a pack pop through the letter box two days later. Within minutes all the stools and chairs in the kitchen were adorned accordingly and my nerves were dealt a reprieve.

You don’t need me to tell you that the last year or two have been mighty stressful. If, like me, you’ve got sensitive ears, and/or your nerves are shot to f**k, then chair socks might just be one way to create a more ambient home. I’ve just had a quick peruse of the internet and there’s a stack of knitting and crocheting patterns out there for the socks, so there’s a new project for a Knit n’Natter club.

Chair socks:  that’s what I’m offering you all this evening, as the world tilts yet further and madness prevails. I’m wondering if they can be bought in bulk for schools? Now there’s a thought…

 

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SWB starts a conversation

Ah flip everyone- I’m causing havoc this morning! Wait til you hear. So the news yesterday: the IPCC report showed that climate change is accelerating more quickly than we thought. It’s a Code Red for Humanity; we have to try harder to protect the environment. It had me all flustered, hot and bothered. And who did I take it out on? The husband of course. He’s never off the internet, ordering things because he’s working from home and a bit bored. ‘But we NEED it,’ he bleats, as yet another item gets dropped at the door, by, you’ve guessed it, an Amazon van.

Now, these vans, they crack me up, because they’re never off our street, and often to our house. So on to the Frank phone in on U105 I go and speak to the lovely Denise.

‘Vans leaving their engines running while they deliver your goods,’ I say. ‘Really bugs me. Why don’t they switch them off a moment?’ It’s not just Amazon of course, it’s all cars and vans. Turn the engines off when they’re not moving. W need cleaner air. Simple.

On we chat, about ideas how we should be refilling wine bottles and milk bottles at the supermarkets and eating less meat. But no one is listening about that anymore- it’s the Amazon vans that have caused a stir.

LSB comes down the stairs and hears a proper fall out on the radio. ‘Tell that woman she doesn’t know what she’s talking about! The vans run on electric,’ says Tom in Templepatrick.

‘What did you go on and say?’ says LSB.  ‘Amazon vans are electric, not diesel.’

‘Are you sure?’ I say, ‘They don’t sound electric to me.’

He reaches into his pocket, grabs his phone, and shows me some documentary evidence to the contrary.

‘Still not convinced,’ I say. But Frank’s phone lines have gone berserk. No one is talking about excessively packaged bananas anyone, the whole show has been taken over about Amazon, and their electric vans. I blame LSB. If he hadn’t gone and ordered a pencil case shaped like a cuddly Sloth for the Small Child, I might not have been so aggravated.

 

I talk to Denise at ten past ten. At five to eleven people are still ringing in about the Amazon vans.

But here’s the thing. Whether the vans are electric or not, we buy more than we need because it’s just too convenient. Amazon uses excess packaging- sure wasn’t there a cardboard shortage recently; beige gold they were calling it. They have massive data centres; huge shipping and production costs. All this doesn’t happen on fresh air- somewhere, factories are belching out black plumes of smoke because coal is being burnt to generate the electricity.

Jeff Bezos has the cheek to say, ‘Thanks very much everyone for sending me to space, you made a dream come true!’ as if his businesses don’t wreak enough havoc on the environment he takes a jaunt into space, during a global pandemic while wild fires rage. I’d say whether his vans are electric or not will be a moot point if he starts a billionaire space race. I’m starting to think he has a Bond villain’s agenda; he may be able to escape into orbit as the world burns, but for the rest of us there is no Planet B and yesterday’s report just clarified that.

So, should I have checked my facts before chatting to Denise? Probably. Did it get people talking though? It certainly did, and that’s where it all starts.

 

 

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SWB is saving water, no ifs or butts…..

You know me and my obsessions everyone: sometimes it’s recycling and micro-plastics and reducing waste. At the moment I’m on a mission save water, and so today, as grey clouds loom over the city and rain falls in torrents, I thought I’d give you a watered down version of what’s going on in my head- so as not to bore you rigid.

Yesterday I met friends for lunch in District on the Ormeau Road. As I sat, eating a Portuguese tart and sipping tea, a downpour of Biblical proportions began. Rain gathered in the awning and gushed along the guttering, before streaming onto the footpath below.  I had to restrain myself from asking for a wee basin: I thought the cafe was missing an ideal opportunity to harvest the water and use it later for their plants. Obsessed I have become- I’m telling you.

In July, as the ground baked and my lawn turned brown and crispy, I became ever more conscious of dwindling water supplies, and how quickly our reserves here in Northern Ireland become depleted. I am grateful for my water butt which I made LSB buy (and install) last year. Since we have our own supply, I never feel guilty about watering my plants and I even managed to resuscitate my poor parched sweet peas, after failing to notice how dried out they had become. That’s the thing about plants- needy little feckers.

What was it David Attenborough said, ‘Live the life you want to lead, just don’t waste anything.’ If he could see our failing water system, I fear his ninety-four year old heart might splinter in two. We lose so much of our water supply to leaks as in hot weather the ground overheats and contracts, causing the water pipes to crack, wasting thousands of litres. This happens ALL THE TIME here, because the system is so elderly (Victorian, if we’re being precise) and long overdue reconstruction.

There are massive problems with the infrastructure and a lack of funding, but there are small steps we can take to protect our water supplies, thereby allowing NI Water to direct costs elsewhere into improving the system.

Obviously there are the ways to save water- not overfilling the kettle when you’re making the ninth cup of tea that day; turning off the tap when we brush our teeth, shorter showers etc. So far, so obvious.

But have you heard about the ‘fatbergs’? No, this isn’t an American comedy you’d find in the early hours on E4. Seriously, if you’re eating, come back to this post later because this is ROTTEN. You know when you’re cooking your mince and you fire the grease down the drain because you think it’s only a wee dribble? Well, imagine everyone is doing that, including restaurants and cafes.* The dribble becomes a flood, and when this hot fat hits the cold pipes it congeals. Here’s the queasy bit. Wet wipes, even the ones which claim to be flushable, stick to these, as do sanitary products which folk still insist on chucking down the loo. These create enormous ‘fatbergs’ which take huge amounts of time and expense to disperse. If NI Water weren’t dealing with this sort of nonsense, they may be able to put their money to better use.

Which brings me to my proposal, water butts for all! Wouldn’t it be amazing if NI Water could team up with a company and use recycled plastic to provide water butts for renters and home owners alike? This way everyone could have access to their own water, and wouldn’t have to use purified water from their taps to douse their dahlias and feed their fuchsias. I even use mine to rinse out the plastic containers that I pop in my blue bin.

What do you reckon? If you were offered a water butt do you think you’d use it? And how about if a big multi-national company saw fit to MAKE the water butts form their recycled bottles? Obviously, I’m thinking of Coca Cola. They do own ‘River Rock’, after all, so surely they have an interest in water supplies. I contacted them to see what sustainable steps, if any, they were taking during the dry period in July with regard to water consumption, but I’m still waiting on a response.

It’s just a thought- but on days like this when it’s lashing non-stop, I can’t help but think we shouldn’t let a precious resource flow straight down the drain. My water butt is now almost replenished after last week, so that’s me set up again for months ahead. What can I say? I like big butts and I cannot lie ….. (sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

*If you wait for the fat to cool, you can pour it straight into your brown compost caddy, on top of vegetable waste which will soak it up. I’ve taken to lining my caddy with newspaper for any excess liquid. (I take pride in sourcing articles which feature BoJo’s face for this job.)

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SWB recycles her recycling argument

I’m back up on my soap-box everyone: it’s been a while since I had a rant, and today I’m going back over some well-trodden ground. But feck me, the recycling situation here is still shite, and moving at snail’s pace. I’m talking about schools, businesses, community events; places where you imagine a system would be in place, but sadly not. I’m constantly gritting my teeth when I see everything being heaved into the bin together, unseparated at source and sent merrily off; no f**ks given.

 

Sometimes people are just honest: I’m too busy; I’m running a business here, I don’t have time, it’s not my problem. I appreciate that businesses have had a horrendous time of late but that argument won’t wash because the same people were wheeling out this argument long before Covid arrived. Others argue that the waste will be separated anyway when it moves along to the processing plant; however if the contents are contaminated by food waste or liquids then it rendered unsuitable for the next stage, and off it goes to landfill. What a wasted opportunity.

 

Let’s talk schools. Most of the schools in which I’ve worked are kept scrupulously clean and tidy. As well as the pupils binning their waste, I see caretakers diligently emptying bins and going round the playgrounds with litter pickers. This is how it should be of course, who doesn’t want a fresh and clean environment for their children, especially now. But from a teaching point of view, you feel like a right muppet when you’re banging on about our responsibility to the planet and the kids are still traipsing down the canteen to buy their chips in Styrofoam boxes and eat them with plastic forks. Poor Greta Thunberg would be having the dry bokes.

 

Apparently, it’s the schools, NOT the Department of Education who have to pay for their own recycling. This seems entirely wrong to me: is there not enough pressure on schools that the Department should just step up and resolve this? Of course not: they’re presently far too busy, making a total shambles of the transfer test, which, even if the poor kids GET, they still aren’t even guaranteed a place, in any school, in the whole country. I digress. Not like you, SWB, I hear you say. But in short, it’s up to a few members of staff who can’t stomach the waste to go ferreting about in bins, lifting out plastic bottles and cans and saving reams of paper from being dumped. It’s not fair.

 

To end on a positive, and on the fact which got me started in the first place, the Co-op has launched a way to recycle your soft plastics,* i.e. stuff that can’t go in the blue bin, (bread bags, crisp packets, microwavable rice packets etc). You can gather up any of these-and deposit them special  bins they have in store. I’ve already been down to the Co-op on Rosetta and the bin is easy to spot near the cash desk.  Radio 2’s Sara Cox was on talking to Frank about it on U105 this morning, and so I rang in too, as this is right up my Strasse. ‘What’s your tuppence worth on this Helen?’ he asked, somewhat warily. He’s used to me now, is Frank. ‘Tuppence?’ says I. ‘You’ll get at least 50p’s worth out of me on this.’ And off I went.

 

As Sara Cox rightly said, we only have to look out our window and see the weird weather that’s afoot, and here to stay. Small steps by all of us is the way forward, but applying some pressure on councils and the Department of Education wouldn’t be amiss either.

 

* These are the plastics that you can scrunch up in your hand and if they ping back then they are suitable for this type of recycling.

 

 

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How to remember stuff- SWB gives advice

Now I don’t know about you, but my memory is kaput, my ability to recollect fuzzier than the morning after a rake of raki* shots on my Greek holiday with the girls in 2000.

 

So I have advice for you- very simple but it works. WRITE EVERYTHING DOWN. Do not even CONSIDER relying on your memory at this stage in the game, as this is pointless. You will forget things and be cross with yourself or worry that the heat and alcohol abuse during lockdown has brought on a mini stroke. Make a spread sheet; journal, get your fridge magnet thingy up to date. You need it.

 

What a couple of years we have all had. What a lot of new and rapidly changing information to process. What a lot of life changes, usually in the form of getting a dog, to be fair, but this  sure does impact upon family life, having to feed and walk the fecker, for starters. (The Mothership is going to be on the blower within seconds of reading this. Don’t DARE be calling Tilly a fecker. Tilly is MARVELLOUS.’)

 

My inability to retain information is at an all time high today. The children are at tennis camp until half 12: so far so good. But the Small one has then been invited to a birthday party, about which she is almost LEVITATING with excitement. ‘I LOVE seeing my friends,’ she said earlier. ‘And the thing about the girls in my class is that they aren’t squealers. Squealers hurt my head.’ Well, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree there, does it?

 

Meanwhile, other friends have kindly offered to take the Older Child to the park, at approximately the same time, so I have to try not to forget about that. I want to go to the running club later, but that coincides with when the aforementioned child who has football training. I thought all that football was over for the summer, but apparently not. Who knew? Definitely not me. ‘Sure it’s grand,’ I said to LSB, ‘I can do the toing and froing- It’s not like I’ve anything on later.’

 

‘Yes you do, you have your class’, he said, looking at me like I’d just developed early on-set dementia. ‘Remember the writing course, the one you started yesterday?

 

And I had, of course, completely forgotten. It’s the week of the John Hewitt Festival and I signed up for three sessions on memoir writing. I did the first of these yesterday afternoon, and fabulous it was too. I was all, ‘Best thing I’ve done in ages! I’m so motivated! Go me!’ And within 24 hours I’d completely erased it from my memory. This sort of thing worries me, and I didn’t even drink last night.

 

But listen, here’s the craic. As humans we are essentially creatures of habit, and our routine has been shot to fuck. Holidays are trying for parents, when the kids are all doing things at different times, in different places. It looks dreadful when you leave your children standing for half an hour in the blazing sun because you thought their camp finished at 2pm when it turns out to be half one. Hell though, these things happen. Family friends of ours once zoomed off merrily from a service station in France, before a child chirped up ‘Where’s Frank?’ when she noticed that the youngest was missing. Frank, bless him, was standing at the petrol pumps, having a wee cry to himself. I love that story: it always makes me feel better about my parenting.

 

Let’s not forget too that we had a heatwave, which addled my already frazzled brain. ‘Helen’s on strike,’ LSB reported to the Mothership, as the children’s recounted all the different takeaway meals we’d eaten last week. Well, I’m sorry, but if they weren’t all such a bunch of fussy feckers it might have been easier to rustle something up, but I was too melted, both figuratively and literally to make this happen.

 

The point of this post? Write it all down. Make a note of start times and end times and remove ambiguity from your life. You need to harness any energy you have in this weather and not be frittering away your limited brain capacity with uncertainties.

 

*raki is like tequila but without the finesse.

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SWB farms out the kids

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

* Note the Chandler Bing intonation.

 

 

 

 

 

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SWB on Staycationing

Once I went backpacking round Vietnam on my own for a fortnight and went merrily abseiling down waterfalls in Dalat, a lush and verdant resort in the central highlands where the Vietnamese go to honeymoon. The following summer I jetted off to Madrid to learn Spanish- which proved harder than I’d anticipated, but perhaps that was because of my sangria-soaked brain. Both of these were pre-marriage, pre-children, and more significantly, pre-covid.

 

It was thus a shock to find myself almost deliriously happy last Friday morning, packing the car to go to The Burrendale Hotel in Newcastle. So excitable was I that I texted into Carolyn on U105’s Lunchtime Bistro. ‘The sun is bright, and my heart is light!’ I wrote. God almighty. That’s what it’s come to.

 

Arriving, I took the offspring to the pool where I’d booked a slot. Unfortunately, it was filled with other children, whose ear-piercing shrieks reverberated off the tiles, making my eardrums tremble and temples throb. I can’t cope with screaming, especially at a high pitch. Why don’t parents just say ‘stop that immediately, for it is painful on the ears?’ I will never understand this. (I know, just call me Mrs Kill-The-Craic). ‘I’m not cut out for these shenanigans,’ I thought. Meanwhile LSB had a snooze. He was hot, apparently, and very tired, after the 45 minute drive.

 

Head still pounding, we trotted into town. I had notions of going to boutique-y little fancy shops, but obviously they were all closed, because we weren’t in Spain, where establishments stay open until 10pm for happy holiday maker like ourselves.

 

Tragically though, a shop called ‘Around A Pound’ was very much open, and when the children spotted it, their eyes lit up. ‘Can we go in? Can we?’ they said, clutching their little purses. ‘We know you don’t like this sort of shop Mummy,’ said the smaller one. ‘You can go somewhere else.’

 

‘Three words,’ I said. ‘NO PLASTIC SHITE.’ The Older One winced. She takes a very dim view of vulgarity, unless it’s a fart joke, to which she is partial. Shortly afterwards they appeared. Sometimes I worry that my draconian parenting strategies may have caused some sort of imbalance in their brains. They weren’t clutching bubble gum or bright blue sticks of rock or even a stuffed toy. No. Instead they asked: ‘Please can we buy a stapler?’   ‘It would be so useful.’ ‘Obviously you can buy a stapler,’ I said, to which they looked at each other and said ‘YESSS’ as if they were Flander’s kids off the Simpsons.

 

On the way to the stationery section, I caught sight of a box containing ‘gutter mesh’. ‘Keeps your guttering clear of debris,’ said the box. I stood a moment and wondered if I should buy some. How ingenious I thought, my guttering is sadly lacking, and often filled with bits of twig.  I then wondered how much I needed, and lamented not having the foresight to measure my guttering before leaving the house.

 

I shook myself out of my stupor. Here I was, on my first night away since September, considering the merits of gutter mesh. Is this my actual life now? I pondered. The Small Child pulled out three shiny pound coins from her purse and bought her stapler. She eschewed a bag and said no, she was happy to carry it. ‘Now I have everything I need,’ she said smiling beatifically. It was a bit like Father Jack and his brick.

 

The stapler came with us to the Amusements*; it came on the walk to the beach, and it came to dinner, where it sat on the table, pride of place. Back at the hotel, they opened the stapler, after finding some paper which they’d quickly folded to make a book, imaginatively titled ‘Holidays’. And the terrible disappointment on their faces when they discovered that THERE WERE NO STAPLES INCLUDED. And this is how it came to pass that at 11am the following morning, I found myself BACK in ‘Around A Pound’ looking for the appropriately size of staples for the children’s stapler. They didn’t have any. There’s another pound shop up the street said the shopkeeper. ‘You’re alright,’ I said. ‘It’ll do til another day.’

 

Please feel free to let me know if any of your holiday experiences have been equally uninspiring and made you re-evaluate life choices. Obviously if you’ve had an amazing holiday, just keep it to yourself. Can’t bear to think of everyone else enjoying themselves. Oh, and just to add to it, while LSB took himself off to do Castlewellan park run, I made the children do a litter pick with me, after begging bags and some gloves for the hotel staff. Up and down the Castlewellan Road we went, lifting bottles and cans and crisp packets. I thoroughly enjoyed myself actually, which I suppose says a lot about what I consider fun these days.

 

*needless to say I LOATHE these arcades with a passion but the Small Child gets wildly excited about them and I struggle to say no to that wee face sometimes.