Wednesday, December 21, 2005

I feel pretty, oh so pretty!

I feel pretty, oh so pretty
THERE IS a wonderfully funny story doing the rounds on the Internet at the moment about an unfortunate woman's attempts to pamper herself with a home waxing kit.

For those who have not read the email, all I can say is that I've yet to meet a woman who has not crossed her legs in sympathy as tears of laughter rolled down her cheeks at the story.
Those of us who have read the story really should have learned from the experience, but alas the search for beauty knows no sense and as I started to prepare for a friend's wedding this week I found myself up close and personal with the evil that is self waxing strips.
You see, I'm going to town with this wedding. Since becoming a mammy I've kind of lost of my ability to make an effort with anything- and I've rather embarrassingly gone to a stupid amount of functions wearing my trusty black trousers with whatever dressy top I could get out the door wearing before the wee man attacked me with his slabbery kisses.
Generally when you think of me and how I've looked at weddings or parties in the last two years the words "bush", "dragged" and "backwards" spring to mind.
So I pretty much decided this time would be different- for a number of reasons. First of all, this is the wedding of my very glamourous and elegant friend who generally hangs about with very glamorous and elegant people.
I already know she is going to look stunning (Gavin, you are a terribly lucky man), so I figured I couldn't show myself up by going along sporting my usual bin -woman look.
The second reason is that myself and himself get to dump the wee man in the care of my beloved mammy and stay overnight in a lovely hotel in Stranorlar. This means we get some "us" time, where we don't have to refer to each other as mammy or daddy, fight over who gets up in the night for dummy duty or be faced with the gruesome sight of two over-tired parents struggling to change a damp baby at two in the morning.
It is definitely true that himself has truly seen me at my physical worst over the last two years. From the gloriously unattractive sight of me in labour to the pyjama-ed zombiefied mammy that I transform into within five minutes of getting through the door in the evenings, I am far from the blushing bride he married four and a half years ago.
So I'm determined to look half respectable this weekend so he is proud to call me his wife when arrive at the church together on Saturday.
And that leads me back to the story of self waxing strips. You see, while I'm going to town on this wedding, my budget is not perhaps conducive to the full pampering experience.
I'm treating myself to a wee eyebrow shape and a french manicure at Natural Touch on Friday and I'll saunter down to Streaks Ahead on Saturday morning for a wash, cut and blow dry.
But everything else is pretty much down to me- and it sure isn't a matter of slapping on some lippy and heading out the door any more.

For the last three nights I've been plucking, waxing and tanning my poor neglected body to within an inch of its sorry life. And trust me, anyone who tells you waxing doesn't hurt is talking through their bikini line!
There is something exceptionally undignified about sitting in your bathroom, leg up on the toilet seat, applying warm wax to your person and then ripping the hairs out of your body. It's not big, it's not clever and it is not advisable when you have a toddler running about- unless you want his first complete sentence to be largely composed of expletives.
The joy of waxing is closely followed by the joy of exfoliation- which is somewhat akin to slowly peeling a few layers of your own skin with a cheese grater in the name of high fashion.
Exfoliation is, of course, a precursor to that other joy that befalls women in the run up to any big event- self tanning. Picture the scene, you are now a hairless wonder- your skin red raw from all that scrubbing and its time to slap on some foul smelling cream and hope against all hope that you don't end up looking like you've been randomly attacked with some orange paint.
And much as you try there is no way to escape the fake tan aroma- short off getting in the shower and scrubbing some more- except that by now you are down to your last two layers of skin and in serious danger of exposing some bone.
They do say no pain, no gain however and I hope that come 12 noon on Saturday I'll be looking my finest. I've garnered a lovely little vintage dress from Ebay with matching heels and a lovely hat which I'm more than a little besotted with. There is not a pair of black trousers in sight and with the wee man safely with his granny from first thing in the morning, there is a minimal chance of a snotter or slabber attack before I get out the door.
So I'm hoping my efforts will pay off. I'm hoping himself will be impressed that his wife is still there underneath the daily mammy costume. I'm hoping as we watch Nora and Gavin say their vows, and promise to love each other come better or worse, than he'll squeeze my (manicured) hand and be glad we are together.
And I hope, as the music plays at the reception, he can stomach the smell of the fake tan as he leads me across the dance floor.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Away in a manger

ONE OF the annual joys of working in the Derry Journal is that come each Easter you get to cover the annual Feis and have a jolly old laugh about those silly Irish dancing wigs and the rather scary antics of that well known Derry creation- the Feis mammy.

You see from the moment the first wain steps on the stage at the Forum and recites a poem or dances a wee jig, all hands are on deck here in the Journal office to field calls from anxious parents wondering when their wee darling's picture is going to appear.
Until now, I've scoffed with the best of them but recently I fear I may be morphing into one- or worse still, I'm becoming the Feis mammy's evil cousin- The Nativity Play Auntie.
My darling niece Abby, aged "three and three corters" (as she would say it) is at nursery and soon to take to the stage for her acting debut in the school's production of "The Nativity".
According to herself she is going to be a fairy- but we know better. She is in fact going to be taking the starring role of the Angel Gabriel. (See Nativity Play Auntie is already wondering why they didn't see her potential as Mary, but we'll keep quiet about that for now- after all Gabriel gets to wear a more sparkly costume).
So as the big day approaches, we've all gone into overdrive singing Christmas carols over and over and talking through the story of Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus (complete with the nodding of the head ala all young children).
I'm stupidly excited for a number of reasons. The first being that my own child is much too young to be given any starring roles just yet. He would be more inclined to lift the Baby Jesus (nod your head), count to three and throw him across the room shouting "Ta Daaaaa!" than sing "Away in a Manger", as that is favourite game of the moment.
The second reason is that I never had the chance to be in the nativity play myself. When I was wee, our primary school had a policy where the two P3 classes took it turn about each year to get the honour of putting on the show and when it my year, it was the other class who got to wear the tissue paper angel costumes and wire hanger wings.
It is something that has always kind of galled me, especially as my older sister got to play an angel and my younger sister (Abby's mammy) hit the jackpot and got to play Mary. (We still have the hilarious video somewhere of Emma announcing to an enthralled audience at Rosemount Primary School "Am gonny have a baybeeee, Am gonny call him Jeeeesus" (Nod of the head).

No room at the Inn
There has therefore always been a latent desire in me to be an angel, an innkeeper, a shepherd or even (I'm getting desperate here) the donkey.
So when Emma revealed that Abby had beaten off stiff competition from a host of other three year olds to get a leading role, I immediately realised this was my chance to experience the nativity- all be it vicariously.
Now, you think as a relatively sane and sensible 29 years old I would be happy enough to go along on the day, watch the show, wipe a proud tear from my eye and saunter back home again proud as punch- but no...that is not enough for this auntie.
I have reached the point of no return and done the unthinkable. Oh yes, I have found myself singing the songs with Abby and, I admit, mouthing the words in an exaggerated fashion just in case she would forget.
To give her her dues, Abby is not entirely happy about this. "I know the words Auntie Claire," she declared in a rather exasperated tone the other day as I proceeded into the second verse, even though that won't actually be sung on the day. But I was on a role- I was giving it everything, and shaking my head with gusto that the "Little Lord Jesus (nod of the head) no crying he makes".
And as she skipped around the living room singing some song about being there when Jesus was born, I clapped along in time and gave her a short (and soon forgotten) lecture on posture.
But that aside, I'm sure it is not just my bias as her auntie which makes me think her singing voice really is angelic and which makes me know in my heart of hearts that no other child on stage that day will outshine our wee angel.
And much as I'll be there, mouthing the words and feeling those butterflies in my tummy on her behalf, my biggest hope isn't that she is word perfect or utterly in tune- it is simply that she enjoys herself and always remembers her big stage debut.
All that said, I've asked Abby if her teacher, Mrs. McDowell, could perhaps find me a role in the play, but it seems I'm too big and will have to wait until I am a little girl again (Abby's words). It's hard, but I suppose I have to accept some dreams just won't come true.
Nonetheless if you hear of anyone who needs an understudy for a Mary or even a flea bitten donkey, keep me in mind. I already know all the words to "Away in a Manger" after all.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Fa la la la la, la la la la....

IT IS officially December now and so my self-imposed ban on talking about all things related to Santa, tinsel and glittery baubles has been reluctantly lifted.

I now have to come out of full denial mode and realise that Christmas is a mere hop, skip and holly bush away and I'd better start getting my arse into the festive swing of things.
I'll admit, I have a big plus factor on my side this year. With the wee man approaching the two-year-old mark he has an increasing understanding of the magic of Christmas.
He screams "Sadda" at the top of his lungs should he see an image of the man decked in red, and will listen along quite nicely to my tuneless renditions of "Away in a Manger"- but even his excitement has not lifted me out of the Autumnal doldrums.
You see, this year is different to any year before as the Allan clan en masse are leaving behind the twinkling lights of the Foyle Bridge and magic of midnight Mass at the Long Tower for a weekend of festive frolics at the hands of the in-laws.
Those who read this column will know that there are two universal truths in my life. The first is that I love my mammy and daddy and will spend as much time as any 29-year-old married woman legally can in their company.
The second is that time spent with my in-laws, all lovely in their own right, fills me with a certain sense of dread and foreboding. You see, much as they can offer the sun, moon and plum pudding, it is just not the same as Christmas, Derry style.
This will be the first year I wake up in a bed that is not my own on the big morning. I imagine it will be that wee bit more dramatic than the first time I actually spent Christmas away from my mammy and daddy's house. I bawled into my pillow for several hours on Christmas Eve as himself tried to console me with Quality Street and wine. I only truly came around when we arrived at my mum's the next day, cracked open the wine and started singing Christmas carols.
But this year we are moving up a gear in my battle to become a proper grown up and that involves making my husband's Christmas wish come true by spending it with his family- for the first time in four years of marriage.
My sister-in-law, a lovely woman called Lynn, lives in a gorgeous and very picturesque village in deepest, darkest Cheshire. Her house is the kind of house that makes our wee terrace look like a shack in a South African shanty town.

Her spare room is a gorgeous sumptuous creations decorated in creams and chocolate browns and we will even have our own en-suite complete with power shower. If we want to be extra decadent, there is an adjoining room where the wee man can sleep to give us some peace and quiet.
I'm assured the day will be lovely. A cooked breakfast will be followed by a leisurely drive to my father-in-law's new house (which is apparantly in the middle of a forest by a fancy!) and a play around the garden with the wee man and my niece and nephew before dinner, a leisurely gossip and some wine. (The one benefit of my inability to pass a driving test being that himself will be the designated driver for the day).
We'll drive back to the picturesque village some time later and on Boxing Day the family will converge again for board games, a bit of craic and loads of fattening food (I'm resisting the urge to mention wine again given that I've already mentioned a stupid amount of times).
I should be in seventh heaven about the whole thing, especially as the tickets are courtesy of a freebie from Easyjet, but instead I'm in a right royal grump.
I suppose like many a good Derry woman I'm still attached to my mammy by some invisible umbilical chord and if I'm honest, I'm also incredibly selfish. I can't help but wonder if Christmas will have the same magic when it is not in my own surroundings, watching the lights twinkle on my own tree and listening to John Denver and the Muppets with my daddy.
I suppose the only cure is to catch that Christmas fever. I may have to force myself up to Foyleside for a bit of retail therapy, or force himself to pull the tree from the attic and set to work (This year's theme- whatever the wee man can't pull down/ eat/ stuff up his nose).
I'll sit down and talk to my mammy and daddy about how we can have a second Christmas day when we get back from our travels (Twice the presents, wooohooo!) and I will try to remind myself that the most important thing about the day is that I get to spend it with himself and the wee man.
I suppose it is part of growing up and maturing that sometimes you have to realise that Christmas is not so much about the day itself but about who you spend it with. And if I'm honest, I'm kind of looking forward to playing in the forest and walking down the lanes of the picturesque village.
In fact, there is a wee pub right in the heart of the town which serves lovely soup and rolls and welcome manic toddlers with open could all work out after all.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Happy December from the J-man!

Abby and Joseph send their love! Reindeers of the world unite!
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