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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.







SWB Airs her Dirty Laundry

Poor Stacey Solomon has been subjected to an ear-bashing when she admitted to changing her bed sheets once a week. I tend to agree with the nay-sayers, because I’m more of a once-a-month girl myself. But as I said to Frank earlier when I was on chatting to him on the phone-in, I think this is plenty. It’s also a seasonal issue, because I would feel more guilty about using the tumble drier to dry all the sheets than I would about them smelling less than fragrant after a couple of weeks. During the summer I change them more often, when they can blow merrily in the breeze, and one is less at the mercy of our capricious climate.


But let’s be clear about this; changing the bed linen is a work-out. Our mattress is very deep, so deep that even the ‘Extra-Deep King Size Fitted Sheets’ sometimes struggle to fit. Many nails have been sacrificed at the altar of cleanliness in our bedroom, not to mention the risks to my dodgy back. We were so tired of the sheet untucking itself on a nightly basis that LSB got to googling solutions and made an investment. Cue the arrival of four ‘bed suspenders’; curious little black straps with clips (STOP IT EVERYONE, I KNOW WHAT YOU’RE THINKING) which secure the sheet in place. I’m not being hyperbolic when I say that they’ve changed our lives.


Down in Bangor by the sea, the Mothership was also experiencing mattress issues. Her elderly mattress was banjaxed and thus began the search for a new, thinner version, which wouldn’t result in strained ligaments and visits to the chiropractor after changing day. A helpful gent in the bed emporium she visited, assured her that a thinner mattress was no worse for her back and so she procured one on Tuesday. I am eagerly awaiting her consensus.


Should you want to feel a semblance of cleanliness, but can’t be arsed with the whole palaver, then I advise you to change the pillowcases, even the duvet cover if you must. After reading KC Davis’ book, How to Keep House when You’re Drowning, I’m all about life’s shortcuts. We all have tasks we will prioritise, and for me, having clean clothes and some home-cooked dinners is much more important than the bedsheets. I also fear I’m suffering from PTSD from the constant laundering of sheets when the children were very small and sometimes peed the bed, or more ghastly still, when they came into our bed, and peed in it. The misery. The days were the trenches, I’m telling you. The absolute worse though, was when you stripped the bed and forgot about it, and had to start the whole bloody rigmarole at eleven o’clock of an evening. Any wonder mummy drinks?


My advice? Do what works for you. There are cleaning videos galore on the old Insta, and I said recently, I enjoy watching them, as they soothe me, a little bit like white noise, mere chewing gum for the eyes. But do I clean like that? Hell no. Suit yourself is my motto, and as long as I’m not lying on toast crumbs or an excess of pet hair*, then I’m happy enough to stick to my monthly schedule and not lose sleep over it, (boom boom).


*I realize that this will differ person to person. I imagine some of you have the dry bokes just reading that. I apologise.


SWB on the new stars of Instagram

Haven’t I gone and got myself hooked on Instagram. And once again, I am plumbing the depths of banality, because I am watching video after video of CLEANING HABITS. The old me wouldn’t have understood why anyone would watch a randomer scrub their toilet. What levels of stultifying boredom would you have to reach, I’d have wondered, before you’d willingly observe someone dust their skirting boards? And yet, every day Instagram is helpfully suggesting new people for me to follow, the likes of @TidyDad and @nonstopmumma. The algorithms tell me that I need to follow any account with ‘washy-washy scrub scrub’ as their tag-line, and reels pop up with stupidly enthusiastic women (almost always women) saying: ‘come clear your plughole with me!’ You may not think this is the most tantalising of click bait but there I am, all, ‘Would you believe the shine off that stainless steel sink! Behold the gleam of that hob!!


I know we’re all suckers for a ‘before and after’ post, and I can understand how we could be excited to witness the radical transformation of say, a lovely living room, but tidying a desk? Sprucing up the ensuite? Really? Who’s going to hand over their valuable time to watch that? Well, me, as it happens. And clearly, I’m not alone, given the thousands of followers clocked up by these cleaning gurus. They are the superstars of Insta, their microphones replaced by mops and their guitars with tubes of grout-buster.


Frankly I’m amazed, but maybe it just sums up how small my world has shrunk since Covid, and how happy I am to keep it that way. I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m not a natural housekeeper. I find everything a struggle, from stocking my cupboards with essentials or keeping the surfaces clear for more than ten seconds. It runs in my family. Anytime I heard the hoover when I was a child I asked, ‘Who’s coming?’ LSB is as bad. He sends me little messages when I’m at work, listing his accomplishments. ‘Dishwasher empty!’ he will declare, or ‘Towel wash on!’ I’ll reply with the clapping hands emojis, with no trace of irony since I’m delighted that he’s taking the initiative. Let’s face it, it’s no given that I’ll do it any time soon.


Perhaps these videos work because they offer clarity. I have a shocking habit of over-complicating everything, whether that be washing up or cooking, you can bet your nelly that I’ll make it more of a ball-ache than it needs to be. This tendency of mine only serves to impede progress, of course. I think in a very binary fashion, assuming that we are either good or bad at housework and that I fall into the latter category. I can’t accept that we can just develop habits and routines and try to adhere to them, at least some of the time.


The tyranny of housework has of course been exacerbated by the pets, quadrupling the work load as I rinse out food tines, lint-roller the chairs and mop and spray when one of them takes a surprise poo somewhere. Always a joy. Now I’m also running round scooping up the bowls after they eat. I wouldn’t want anyone falling into Tilly’s dish and suffering cuts and bruises.


So for a person like me, who struggles and gets distracted easily, a motivational video seems to help. If I have to watch someone hoovering their sofa in real time to simplify it for me, then maybe these videos serve a purpose. Provided of course, that I don’t just get suckered in to scrolling through Insta for two hours. That’s a whole other challenge. But the truth is, that yes, a clean house is actually possible, if I just take fifteen minutes here and there and get on with it. And do you know what else occurred to me, (and then I’ll stop chuntering on), but I always take the piss out of Marie Kondo, but when I saw those boys cleaning up the stadiums at the World Cup I was so impressed. I started reading all about Japanese rituals and how they respect their spaces and take pride in them and I thought to myself, my children have a lot to learn! And me too, I have a lot to learn. I love my house, and I love having people in to it, so maybe I should try to enjoy caring for it. Does that sound mad? Probably yes, but I’m sure you’re used to me now.


SWB says ‘New Me?’ No. Old me will do rightly.

I never cease to amaze myself. Yesterday, tired and queasy after an evening’s over-exuberance with an ill-advised mix of alcoholic minerals, I determined that a resolution was needed. New year, new me! Leaner, calmer, less likely to succumb to liver cirrhosis. But today, feeling sprightlier and buoyed by sunlight, I thought to myself, isn’t January a bloody stupid time to be embracing the new? Friends, we are far too fragile for those shenanigans. Perhaps if we lived in balmier climes, where we could leave the house without a kettleful of water to sling over the windscreen, cocooned in a heavily padded coat, we could entertain such notions. But here? Now? It’s a flat no.


I am unconvinced that now’s the time to starve ourselves, or subject our bodies to a punishing regime. Nor should continue the excesses of the season, because that way lies coronary failure. But to put the brakes on all the good stuff, all at once? I think not. One reason I am agin such antics is that presently, I have a fridge full of leftovers, of which only a small proportion is of a healthy variety. I have enough cheese to choke a donkey, and half a bottle of Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc. I don’t care what a coq-au-vin recipe dictates, but wine of that calibre is going straight down my throat. There’s a reason for a mediocre vin de table at £4.50 in Sainsbury’s, and I suggest it’s for a casserole.


As I type, I’m drinking coffee with a slab of panna tone. It is the last hefty slice, and I am enjoying every last festive morsel. But what does one DO with all the other leftovers? Let me help. First up, I have a white bloomer languishing on the counter which I shall concocting it into a bread-and-butter pudding, with dates instead of raisins, because I have a packet of those I intended to stuff with cheese for a New Year’s Eve nibble, but couldn’t be bothered. LSB refers to bread and butter pudding as ‘that eggy mess’ but I shall make it in ramekins and share with friends, who aren’t pass-remarkable ingrates.


I’ve a glut of tomatoes softening in the fridge, which I’ll whizz up into a soup. I can plonk mozzarella into this, which ticks two boxes for wastage.  Another alternative would be a sauce for pizza bagels which LSB lovingly makes in the morning, in his air fryer. I’ve never seen him take to a kitchen appliance the way he has to his air-fryer. He’s dying about it, as am I because I don’t have to think up lunches for the children, a job I loathed because they are fussy little buggers. The rest of the blue cheese I will freeze to make a dip in the future.


It’s clear to see that I’m not cutting out the fat and sugar this January. But I am trying to cut down on waste, so that’s a start. Other realistic goals are: spending less time scrolling on my phone; doing on-line yoga at least three times a week and keeping my study uncluttered. I think those are doable, and not nauseatingly sanctimonious. If you’re doing anything yourselves let me know- or harass me occasionally to see whether I’ve kept on task. Hold me accountable! And a very Happy New Year to you all.


SWB on the Elf on the Shelf

I’m going to write something very controversial this St Stephen’s Day and here it is: I don’t mind the Elf on the Shelf. As you are well aware, I tend towards the curmudgeonly end of the spectrum. I don’t suffer fools, especially small pretend ones, clad in red. But the key to this malarkey, is to set the bar low, extremely low, and befriend others who do the same. Should you associate with the sort of people who wrap up their entire kitchen with Christmas paper or tin foil, then I suggest you rethink the allegiance: there’s enough packaging going straight into the bin during the festive season without this sort of nonsense. And tell me, who has time for these shenanigans anyway? Not I.


If you are a parent of small children, debating whether to get involved with Elf nonsense, then this may be the post for you. I read in the i-paper of some eejit who got on the trend and rued her decision, having spent hours planning activities, and forked out money on it too. Was she right in the head? I asked myself. Aside from buying the thing a couple of years ago (and it was, of course, LSB’s idea, which was initially met with deepest opprobrium,) all I bought this year was a packet of Haribo Star Mix from which I fished out the eggs  so the Elf could do a fry up.


Our ‘elfsploits’ usually took place after 10pm, when one of us would sigh and say ‘What’s that fecker doing tonight? Some shuffling about ensure before it would do something feeble, like read or book, or sit on our decorative llama.


My favourite activities did require a wee bit of thought, (still, after ten o’clock though) such as when I drew a rough illustration and coloured it in, writing, ‘I’ve done an elf-portrait!’ On a baltic evening mid-December, I drew a fire and dressed the elf in a coat my lovely Aunt Freda had knitted for a Barbie. ‘I’m cold!’ said the note, because our elf isn’t blessed with imagination. When Messi clinched the final for Argentina the elf boasted a blue and white striped shirt, attached with a piece of tape. ‘Vamos Messi!’ it had written. It played Happy Families one night with two teddy bears, whom it was beating soundly, sitting proudly with a whole family of moles, another of owls and foxes. The teddies didn’t fare well, but they never have been known for their intellect.

LSB thinks he trumped it though, by wrapping it in brown paper and printing out a QR code. The note read, ‘Your Mum tried to sell me on Vinted!’ After that, the only thing he did was set the Elf in a shoe. He peaked too soon. One weekend, the Elf spent the entire time in the tree, Friday through to Sunday. ‘Flip, that elf really is rubbish,’ I said to the girls. ‘She seems to like it up there,’ opined the Small Child. Sure enough, in her farewell note, the elf wrote that she loved coming to our house and hanging in the tree like a sloth. I’m telling you folks, keep it simple. And if your kids don’t like it, just say the elf didn’t like it either and won’t be back.

I hate to quote Christina Rossetti, because she truly was a miserable auld bastard, but when she wrote ‘The Bleak Mid-Winter,’ she wasn’t wrong. So a wee bit of magic for the kids with minimal effort? For twenty-five days, I can just about manage it.