It’s been a long time, baby

Is there anything to say that won’t bore you and me both? Can my brain compute anything right now? Is there anything in the world apart from COVID and government incompetence?

Andra is having fun in Iceland, amongst a volcano and thousands of earthquakes. My world has shrunk so that a trip to collect Girl2 from school felt like a day out. School, remember that? On Monday, all the other household members were at school- the teacher, the classroom assistant and the year 14 pupil. It was extremely odd to have the house to myself for hours. Harry lay on the mat by the front door, waiting, from lunchtime.

It’s a big change for Girl2, since school has been online since Christmas, and only some year groups are back even yet. As this is her final school year, they’ve had to go back to allow a series of assessments to take place instead of the cancelled A level exams. These assessments will result in grades, which will, in turn, determine next steps/ university admissions/ employment options. A level year always brings pressure, but also, as the most senior pupils, some fun- access to the common room, a ‘formal’, a leavers’ day with pizza and sports challenges, many 18th birthdays to celebrate with nights out. This year they have the pressure without any of the fun.

Family fun

Girl1 is studying her university course from her bedroom at home. She gets to go to work 1 or 2 days a week, and sometimes meets mates in the park. Exciting times.

We have all taken comfort from rewatching box sets. Spurs Fan just completed The Sopranos, and we had to stop him just starting at the start again. We’re doing The Wire instead. Yes, there are loads of newer things, but sometimes only the comfort blanket will do.

At the start of all this, I couldn’t read. Nothing worked. Anxiety, brain fog, confusion, overwhelm. Whatever. That comes back sometimes, but I’m reading again. Thank all the gods. On a few days this week I’ve been able to read outside in sunshine. That has been a joy.

Fresh air, without trekking round the well worn local bridges or overcrowded towpath. Everyone in south Belfast on the same routes, over and over again. The mountain routes in the north of the city have seen a 20% increase in use over the year, but I’d have expected it to be greater. Because we can’t travel anywhere, local parks and paths are jammed.

River Lagan

The place I want to be is at the seaside. Unlike me, that seaside is in the EU. Donegal. COVID rates and responses have always differed between the two jurisdictions on the island. At the minute, disease rates are similar, but the vaccination rates are higher in the north. Our Health Minister yesterday indicated that foreign travel was unlikely this summer, and that travel to the south will depend on the vaccination rates there. I’m not surprised, but I am struggling a bit.

Rossnowlagh, Co. Donegal.

We all need something to look forward to. Go on, inspire me. What are you looking forward to?

Keep going, be the light

all of a sudden

You know what it’s like. Life trundles on, each of us doing our own thing. Seasons change, children grow, work/ volunteering is what it is, and it feels like nothing much happens.

And then. Everything happens at once, all the things in the same week, and you realise just how much has changed.

We rescued another wee westie, Harry. It’s been a year since the grumpy guy went and died on us, and we’ve been looking for a chap to love for a while. Harry came home with us a week ago, sleepy from the vets and a little bewildered by home comforts. The next morning he decided he was in his element and demonstrated his full speed down the street to celebrate. He has a waggy tail, loves cuddles and owns our hearts. He has made himself well at home sleeping on our beds, on sofas, chairs and occasionally, his own bed. Random piles of clothes that girls haven’t got round to putting away are his favourite, closesly followed by the box of winter hats and wooly scarves. All is well, but we need to keep working on the ‘not killing cushions’ thing. And the ‘investigate all the visitors’ handbags thing. We’ll get there.

Girl2 went on a school ski trip. Sixty 15 years olds let loose on snow- it’s a wonder everyone made it home without injury. She resorted to singing when scared. Never mind the hills being alive to the sound of music, the Italian alps resounded to the sounds of ‘I’ll tell me Ma’, which was probably not what they’re used to. In a few months she’ll be off to Milwaukee for a month, and I’ll be a nervous wreck.

Girl1 had a school formal to go to. In the dark ages, my school formal was held in the school, with teachers, dinner ladies and nuns. We had to be interviewed by the Chief Nun in advance, and the bona fides of our dates checked out. I brought the only guy I knew, who lived 2 doors away and happened to be a son of my geography teacher. I had the big hair (early 80s short curly frizz afro style) and the big glasses, and a red taffeta dress my mother made. I can’t imagine being able to make a dress, or ever having the urge to do so. I can clearly imagine that it was the only way she could get me to wear something that wasn’t a sack. My beleagured, stylish mother, doomed to having a dumpy daughter with no interest in fashion or make up or being sociable. She’d be so chuffed with her grandchildren who now have to cope with my lack of style or make up know how. (The unsociable issue has been largely overcome.)

Knowing she’d miss the event, Girl2 took her parents in hand, making sure we’d step up for her sister. We had to prepare for added taxi runs for the spray tan, glam nails, make up & hair because nobody does those things themselves. How could I imagine that she’d draw on her own face?? Do I know nothing??… The biggest concern was that we wouldn’t realise about the photographs, and we’d be lounging about in PJs or a football shirt. How could those pics be shared with the world? I panicked and got Spurs Fan to buy a big bunch of flowers, because all the formal type pics I saw had flowers in them. Naturally we all stood in front of the flowers, and they’re not in any shot. Next time, we’ll pose properly. There will be a next time, and then I’ll know about getting my nails done too, and making sure to bring an umbrella to the tanning place so the rain doesn’t wash the stuff off teenaged feet before it sets.

As if all that wasn’t enough for a week, the NI festival dancing championships were on. There’s a supportive group of dance buddies (and moms!) who called round to be part of the pre formal posing, and who were all dancing on Saturday and Sunday. For the first time ever Girl1 got a podium place, with her couples partner. Many celebrations.

Many changes, including to wordpress. I can’t access the pics on the pc to share them with you any more. If I figure out how to do it, I’ll edit some in. Just imagine a cute westie, a talented skiier, a beautiful girl and her slim, stylish parents and you’ll be there.

used to be

I used to be a teacher, a rower, a daughter. I used to be employed, and healthy. I used to be a blogger.

Now, I’m not quite sure.

I’m busy and motivated and exhausted. I’m a volunteer and a dance mom and an occasional blog reader. I still have ME, I juggle all the things, and I sleep.

It used to be that I’d go for a walk and tell you about it; taking pictures in the museum and sharing my random thoughts on creativity or elephants or the chap who sounds just like Sir Humphrey.

You’d see my new purple nail varnish, or a tidy room, or the silly thing that made me laugh while my family rolled their eyes in despair.

Then I shared less music and more ranting. I’ve bored myself with the ranting.

Brexit leading to threats of war, Trump, NI politics, the Irish police– all of these are beyond parody. Unbelievable behaviour from those who simply don’t care about the rest of us. We appear to be beyond all norms of acceptable behaviour and nobody is being held to account. I don’t know what happened or what to do about it. (Social media is probably not the solution.)

I’ve felt defeated, and pictures of pretty things haven’t helped. I’ve been missing my wee mate Jake- always one to distract me from too much introspection when we were home alone. I’ve taken on extra responsibility with our charity, but nobody wants to read that sort of detail.

Alternatively, I’ve had loads of new experiences, I’ve joined a political party (in an attempt to divert the ranting into something constructive), I’ve got access to spontaneity via a new to me car, and it’s spring. The world is coming back to life, maybe I should, too.



I used to be in a bit of a rut. Bear with me as I work my way out.


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.