Make memories, experience emotions

Months ago, Kileen suggested a night out. Of course I agreed. We arranged the eating part & connected with the others. We were going to a talk by someone I was only just aware of – a floppy haired tv explorer chap. I’d seen a programme or two, but he’s been doing it for years and I’m not an explorer type of gal.

I got home hours later than expected, and am now a fan. Bloggy buddies, Simon Reeve is your man. He was a troubled teen, leaving school without qualifications and with mental health problems. When he admitted to being overwhelmed by life, a kind woman at the dole office told him to just take things step by step, and he did. To the gate, to the corner shop, to the train station, to Scotland, to Glencoe, to that rock, up another bit. Somehow, woefully unprepared, he avoided the need to be rescued & celebrated enormous physical achievement. He even made it home again in one piece. Prior to that, his experience of exploring had been in Granny’s car, directing her to go left, right or straight on, regularly ending up by the biscuit factory.

Eventually, Simon got a job sorting the post for the Sunday Times. When he gathered himself enough to look round the workplace beyond the post room, he got involved in investigations. By 19, he was leading a team. By 20 he had the bit between his teeth and left to research his own book, The New Jackals. That was published in 1998, was quietly well received, and vanished.

In 2000, he published One Day in September, about the massacre at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The accompanying documentary of the same name won an Oscar.

When the attacks happened on September 11, 2001, Reeve’s phone started to ring before the second tower was hit; it didn’t stop ringing for a year and a half. All that research for The New Jackals had made him the author of the only work on Bin Laden & al Qaeda, and in demand.

By this stage I was entertained, moved and agog. There is more to smiley tv guy than I could have imagined. Isn’t that the way?

Nearly half way through the show, and he moved to chat about the programmes made for the BBC. There are many, many series, starting with Meet the Stans and Places That Don’t Exist, moving around the equator and the tropics, and currently working on the Americas. I have much to catch up on.

Tales of toilets (and pigs), being arrested by the KGB and starting down the barrel of a rocket launcher. Armoured undies, wooden swimming goggles & a huge bolt (thrown locally, Belfast is kind to visitors) were all pulled out from travel kits.

The message wasn’t about tall tales or beautiful views; instead, you haven’t journeyed unless you’ve met people. Talk to people, eat the food, experience the light and shade of the world. Push yourself to experience a wee bit more. Look for adventure close to home. Meet people.

When questioned about when or where he’d like to have lived, Reeve was also clear that he’s happy with the here and now, the opportunities to travel, and ‘my lad’.

Grounded and humble, curious, open and grateful, Simon Reeve is worth checking out. I have much to explore!


It came to pass that Handsome Husband went to live with his sisters. The house in the oakland was to be sold.

But first, the stuff. A house with a lot of storage space holds a lot. The Brother and I set to with the help of many black plastic bags, a huge car boot, and the wonderful St Vincent de Paul charity. SVP are long established and work  “to fight poverty in all its forms through the practical assistance to people in need.” What I didn’t grasp until a few weeks ago, is how easy they can make a challenging task. From the first phone call, to the lorry driving away  10 days later, and multiple donation trips to the shop, they gave us kindness, humour, gentleness, and quiet support. We just gave them stuff.

I’d been most concerned about the back bedroom. Boxes went in there when we cleared Herself’s room in the nursing home, and hadn’t been touched since. These boxes took on mythical proportions in my mind. They weren’t just literal boxes, they were metaphorical boxes. What mental chaos would be uncovered? Imagine my relief when they contained an awful lot of out of date toiletries and hangers. The biggest, scariest box held only hangers. Hundreds of them. Too many to count. Even SVP didn’t want them. I’d been wasting anxiety energy worrying about a box of hangers. I was on a roll for a day or so after that. I only laughed at the chest of drawers filled with wrapping paper and ornaments.

I made my way through the room to reach a trolley (recently pretending to be shelves) and pottered back and forth to the garage- wheeeling the bags, posing in a 70s hostess style on the way back. We remembered the glory days of the trolley, with pavlova and grey glass bowls. The trolley collapsed under the strain and expectation of movement before long, but I was glad to have had it, and to have recalled its prime.

Of course, the back bedroom wasn’t the worst. It was all the random, carefully packed, bits of paper filling the fitted wardrobe space in the main bedroom. Years of cards, letters, wedding invitations. 5 orders of service from the one wedding. A letter written to Herself in the weeks after the Omagh bomb. Lots of notes written by herslf as she tried to figure out whether living in Spain with a Dutchman was really for her. (You already know the answer to that.)

The auntie wondered what we’d do with the fire brasses. We hadn’t seen those in years. They got found eventually, in the bottom of the cloakroom, underneath the tennis racket, badminton racket, squash racket, golf practice sets, Nora’s bowls, vacuum cleaner, dusters and all the coats.

We’d donated the regular clothes some time ago, but held on to the good clothes. They still didn’t fit me. I looked at the tweed suit, the respectable going to wedding outfits, Herself’s style, and I phoned the fancy second hand shop. “Designer or top end of the high street only. Must be less than one year old.” Less than a year old? That’s not style, that’s just shopping. Decent style in a size too small for me may be found at Vincent’s.

The chaise lounge went to a cousin. One took chairs and a bookcase. Another, drawers and a lamp. Aunties have ornaments, or a table, or a  different lamp that had a whole other adventure. The Brother and I have the items we wanted. The enormous desk- an huge civil service item from the 50s- had to be dismantled, and then the door taken off, to get out of the back bedroom. SVP are holding on to that one.

This house was never home to the Brother or me. But Herself was so happy there, so full of plans. Plans to learn languages, computer skills, book keeping. We found all the text books. Handsome Husband moved in when they married; we found the actual plans they’d got drawn up for a new home for them both.

Instead, illness happened. Herself is gone a while now, nearly 6 years. I still find that remarkable. The space we’ve been allowed between her death and the house clearing was undoubtedly helpful. We laughed more than we cried. We grumbled without guilt.

And now that house belongs to other people. Sale agreed and completed much more quickly than we had any right to expect. A huge task finished promptly and efficiently.When does that ever happen?

It just feels weird.

what I know about make up- a short post

Before girls went away on their travels, Bookclub buddies wondered why I wasn’t going with them to Poland. Was I falling behind in my duties? Not, you understand, my mummy duties. My shopping duties. Think of the opportunities I’d be missing. (I’d rather be on the beach). Kileen, ever wise, said ‘I bet Poznan has a Sephora‘. Oh. I hadn’t thought of that. (Still, beach.) For the uniniatied, Sephora is a European chain of incredible loveliness. All the make up in all the colours. It’s a bit overwhelming, a temple to beauty products.

Needless to say, girls returned laden down with Sephora products and gloating. Look, Mummy, here I am with my Sephora mascara. Isn’t it lovely? Have you seen my Sephora bronzer?

Hmmm. My late mother, Herself, would be delighted at the interest her granddaughters have learned to take in their appearance, through doing a lot of performing. They have worked out foundation and fake tan and blending and concealer in a way that I have yet to do. It’s unlikely at this point that I ever will.

I did buy make up this summer. It came from another European chain- the discount supermarket Lidl. Nail varnish, mascara, lipstick and BB cream. BB cream, you wonder? I thought it was a fancy tinted moisturiser, but apparently it’s meant to be a wonder product, “promoted as an all-in-one facial cosmetic product to replace serum, moisturizer, primer, foundation and sunblock.

Lidl beauty

I did have some fun playing the the bundle of cheapy products, and my expert reviews are as follows…

Lip gloss- too sticky.

Mascara (regular)- grand, but nothing special.

Mascara (waterproof)- horrible, stings.

Nail varnish- 2 coats needed. Red is fab.

Lipstick- good colours, doesn’t last for ages, but fine.

BBcream- needs a primer (or the Nivea after shave balm) to stop it from going all bally.

That’s it, chaps. That’s my make up reviewing done. Maybe I’ll get the girls to write the next one.


Sadly, this post was not sponsored in any way by either Sephora or Lidl.


dangerous women

Even the least of us can be seen as ‘dangerous’. Some time ago, ME patients were described as ‘dangerous activist nutcases‘ by a psychiatrist on twitter. I was both outraged and baffled, but that’s no surprise.

Spurs Fan and I went to a concert in a church this week, and it was fabulous. Bridget O’Neill, Mary Coughlan, Aoife Scott, Frances Black and Sharon Shannon amazed us with their talent and their power. Frances sang of her politics, Mary sang of her troubles- I knew my oldies would have enjoyed Seduced  and songs of social justice from an altar. Entertainment with an edge. The edge makes all the difference. The edge is risk taking, taboos and danger.

But reading books and listening to music isn’t often dangerous in these parts. Real life is.

Dangerous women have been in my head all week, because of the 4,000 dangerous mothers article by my mate Sharon Thompson. It’s a powerful, shocking, moving piece. Please read it. When I grow up I’m going to write as well as Sharon does.

A danger is defined as ‘a hazard, threat or menace.’ The business of motherhood is very dangerous. But you’re told, ‘you’ll be fine. You will know what to do.’…

So – Your child and yourself are alone. Tired beyond measure you’re surrounded in scary, essential equipment. Things like feed pumps and machines that beep. You hate it all but had to fight tooth and nail to get the cumbersome stuff…

This will happen again you know it will. But when? How? Will they be screaming in pain next time? Will you know what to do? Will it be at a time when you finally have a nurse? It’s right to want your little one here with you always –isn’t it?…

There you are, sipping your cold tea, watching your child’s thin chest move up and down…

I myself surveyed 36 mothers of life-limited children. One question stood out. ‘Do you feel you can cope at home with your child’s condition?’ 34 mothers out of 36 said – ‘No.’ One asked me not to ask that question…

Wanting and demanding that your child’s life and death is as safe as possible should not be considered dangerous. Yet in 2016, these women are supposed to cope alone, with meagre charitable supports and when it’s all over – they’re expected to disappear and be silent. These women are expected to no longer be dangerous…


For further thinking on what it means to be a dangerous woman, see the Dangerous Women Project, full of challenge and learning.