Thursday, December 27, 2007
I considered writing about how Christmas went over in our house - but it was largely uneventful and I would only be boring you with tales of the boy and his many weird and wonderful Christmas questions. (Does Rudolph like broccoli mammy? When will the baby Jesus be old enough to play with me? etc etc).
Or I could do one of those things were I look back over the last year - but elsewhere in this paper you will find my tales of all the good things book related and if I were to talk about the bad things (bereavement, illness and poverty) I’d only end up maudlin and it really would take the glean of my new Next sale purchases.
So instead we’ll look forward but with only a hint of cautious optimism because last year I was bouncing off the ceiling with excitement only to have the best of times matched with the worst of times.
So now I’m going to look forward and take positive steps to make myself a little happier. When I do the sums, life is pretty happy as it is. I have a lovely husband, a wonderful family (with the best mammy and daddy in the world, so there!), a most gorgeous and hilarious child and a nice, comfy home. I work in a job where they actually pay me to do the two things I like most in the whole world which is write and talk to people.
But still, like most people I suppose, I like a good grumble. I would like some more money in the bank, a nice holiday in the sun, health for those I love, a nice trim figure and a nice new car on the driveway as opposed to the chugging monster I currently possess. (I do love my wee car, but I feel like kissing it every time we arrive at our destination for not conking out on me midway).
I guess, however, it’s all in my mindset. When I was at school we had a substitute RE teacher with us for a few months and while I don’t remember her name, or even what she looked like, I do remember that on the day she left she gave us all a little card with the serenity prayer printed on it. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”
Those words have stayed with me in times of sorrow and joy and perhaps it is my biggest resolution of all for 2008 to find peace with all that will happen. I’ll try not to chew my nails down to the bone when my second book comes out and I’m waiting for the reviews. I’ll try to have the courage to keep trying to change myself - losing weight and getting healthy, even when I want to comfort eat myself into oblivion.
I’ll try not to beat my chest in protest at the fact my granny has Alzheimer’s and is sick in hospital and instead make the effort to visit her a little more - even if I know she doesn’t recognise me from Adam.
I will try and retain my patience with the boy when he asks his many, many questions about Rudolph and his favourite vegetables or goes into his refrain of “Mummeeee, Mummmmeeeee, Mummeeeee” like a fog horn waking me from my sleep.
I will try to appreciate the things my darling husband does do around the house instead of focusing on the things he doesn’t. (Although in fairness, my patience may be severely tried with that one and I don’t expect it to last beyond the 3rd or 4th of January at the very latest.
I’m also determined to be a little kinder to myself. Thanks to a lovely giftset from Lush! this Christmas (Why does Derry not have a Lush!? We need Lush! - perhaps I’ll start a campaign) I spent several evenings in the bath, candles lit, glass of wine at my side, good book to read and pampered myself. It felt deliciously indulgent and was the highlight of my festive season. I’m determined to keep that tradition up and put myself first for a little bit in the new year.
I will also, I sincerely promise, try to not to spend my days moaning and groaning about every little detail of my life. I have definitely found that a negative frame of mind is contagious and the more I grumble and complain, the more I find to grumble and complain about.
I won’t go as far as becoming one of those relentlessly cheerful people who says “Smile, it might never happen” to the point where people will want to beat me around the head with my own shoes, but I’ll try and not let the little things in life get on top of me so much.
If I manage that, I’ll be happy (or at least happier) and perhaps that the best we should all aim for in the New Year?
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Christmas morning started this way for us yesterday. The boy crept into our bed at gone 3.30 and climbed down beside us. We urged him to go back to sleep as it was much too early and he snuggled down (pushing me and the husband to opposite sides of the bed).
I was just drifting off to sleep when "Does Rudolph like broccoli?" assaulted my ears. "Muuummeeee!" the boy insisted as I tried to ignore him and fake sleep. "Does he? Does Rudolph like broccoli or is it just carrots?"
"He likes all good food," I answered and shhhed him again.
"But does he like tatoes... and gravy... and turkey too?"
"Yes, yes I imagine he does..."
etc etc etc
My son has developed quite the habit of the random 3am question. It could be (as it has been lately) "When will the baby Jesus be old enough to play with me?", or "Jack in my school thinks he is getting all the toys, is he mummmeee?", or "Can you get me a fire station, not a toy one, a real one to live in?"
Sometimes it's just an observation from his day, like "Harry in my school did a poo at the table today" or "Miss in school is four like me", but you can't get away with ignoring him. Oh no, you must for the love of God answer these and any follow up questions or get no sleep at all whatsoever.
Friday, December 21, 2007
Thursday, December 20, 2007
Anyway I have just soaked in my bath with a Lush bath melt, exfoliated with Lush Aqua Mirablis and slathered Lush Dream Cream all over my skin.
The bath was accompanied by a glass of fine wine and the new Melissa Hill (how the feckity feck does she come up with those plot lines? I *heart* her, although her writing makes me want to give up...)
I am now sitting in front of my chrimblemass tree, slightly fuzzy on the wine, completely blissed out from some pure relaxation.
Thank you oh lovely Write Words friend!
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
As a journalist and writer I much prefer the comfort of my laptop and home pc than actually talking out loud and trying to be ever so witty and funny with my repartee.
Well tonight I attended a function I had been invited to last week. I went to the Chamber of Commerce to address the local Women in Enterprise group for their Christmas drinkies. (Hark at me, being guest of honour and all that).
Now these are all successful and confident women (their confidence shamed me, to be honest) and there's me, moderately successful with confidence on a zero scale at the moment but aware that my publishers would prefer I actively promoted the book rather than sit in a corner like a sad old wall flower, I agreed to go.
I had to talk, informally, for about 20 minutes about my journey to becoming a writer and I think when they laughed it was at least with me and not at me. (although when I did my impression of Joseph rapping his lines from the school nativity...I think it was definitely at me).
But I did it, and I'm proud of myself because I've been feeling so meh lately that I needed a good old kick up the tush confidence wise.
Tomorrow I drive in the frost! Does my bravery know no bounds???
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I've even spoken to my doctor about coming off medication after almost five years and the thought didn't terrify the bejaysus out of me for once, but God I'm in a dark wee place at the moment and I want out of it.
(Now I'm not thinking of jumping off bridges or taking overdoses or the like so please noone worry on that score). I just feel meh.
It seems that the last two months has been a series of knocks in my personal life which are now affecting my ability to think rationally in the day job and the night job.
I'm also immersed in a pretty serious storyline for my third book and when I'm writing about human misery I have to kind of feel it for it to be honest.
I'm paranoid, weepy, whiney and generally in that place in my head where I want to take to my bed and do mny dying swan routine until it all goes away.
I hate this feeling - when my bad days become a bad week - but I know it will pass and I'll come out the other side soon (I hope).
Thursday, December 13, 2007
I put that is caps because c'mon, the girl lost 12.5 stone, not a measley 17lbs here and there like moi. (Although by the end of this I hope to have 4-5 stone off... but I digress
Not only has she lost HALF HER BODY WEIGHT she also writes a very funny blog.
I so related to this post today...
Can I just say I am having a dirty cow of a week. I would like to know what
are you supposed to do when you feel ultra-stressed that doesn't involve diving
face-first into a vat of Smarties or buying stuff. I went out at lunch today and
the brain was racing: CHOCOLATE no don't need any more chocolate STUFF no don't
need any more stuff OK THEN WHAT ABOUT A MAGAZINE coz that's not edible.
So I stood in the queue at Marks and Spencer and by the time it was my turn I
realised the magazine was a bit shit. January issues of magazines are always so
skimpy. Anyway, I skulked back to the office and wondered if my head would
This never really gets any easier, does it? Stress is always going to come along and my reaction is always going to be: how can we instantly soothe this uncomfortable sensation? You can't Take A Bubble Bath or Phone An Understanding Friend when you're in the office at 3 o'clock in the afternoon.
I think that is the reason I had a Chunky Kit Kat this week!
Since having my child I’ve gone on diets too numerous to mention with varying degrees of success and then have inevitably fallen off the wagon at some stage and spent the following number of months in a cycle of negative thoughts and self loathing (while wadging some chips and curry sauce down my gob.)
Of course it all came into sharp focus this past summer when I went on the book tour with ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’. I had the joyous experience of going on live TV with impossibly skinny and glam presenters and having my photo taken numerous times while talking about the importance of being happy with yourself and proud of who you are.
And yet I refused to look at the photos which had been taken or watch the video back of my TV appearances because I didn’t want to see me, very un-bling-like, slobbing over the UTV sofa. (And my sister’s friend said I sounded “wile snobby”).
“So you lost weight then?” one presenter asked and I snorted in response. “Erm, no. The book isn’t actually about me, but now that you mention it I could be doing with a couple of months on the salads and grilled chicken.”
It’s kind of sad to say my enjoyment of the summer was marred by feeling exceptionally self conscious despite a neat line in lovely bootcut jeans and nice tops bought just for going on the telly.
I became resigned to giving Dawn French a run for her money and tried to convince myself that good things come in large packages. (Although for the record I fecking hate that Mika song ‘Big Girl You are Beautiful’ - you’d have to be off your head to dance to that. I mean you might as well drape a “Fat and Alone” sign around your neck. It’s perhaps the most patronising piece of musical rubbish of recent years.)
But for a number of reasons - not least my plummeting self esteem - I decided two months ago that desperate times called for desperate measures. I saw a picture of myself at fellow writer Emma Heatherington’s book launch and I felt sick.
Surely I hadn’t let myself get THAT big? Surely it was a trick of the light or photoshop or a weird digital imaging glitch which meant me - and my big, red, moonface - were grossly distorted. Alas everything else in the photo - including Emma’s perfectly toned arms- was in perfect proportion so maybe, just maybe it was time to make some real changes.
So eight weeks ago I went to Tesco armed with an impressive shopping list of GI (Glycaemic Index) friendly foods and bought more fruit and veg than I would normally consume in a month. Out went “Healthy Option” ready meals. In came new potatoes, lean beef and chicken breasts. Out went salt, vinegar and tubs of Ben and Jerry’s Phish Food ice cream and in came herbs, spices and low fat probiotic yoghurt. Chocolate is a no- no. But then this diet promised that if I was a really good girl and stuck to the rules I wouldn’t crave chocolate anyway. Ha! I scoffed. Me? Beat the chocolate cravings? You’re having a laugh, I chided, slipping a few low fat chocolate mousses in my shopping trolley under the lettuce, onions, tomatoes (God, so many flipping tomatoes!) and butternut squash - just in case.
I stopped off at Argos too, buying a griddle pan and a steamer and vowing, in a Scarlet O’Hara style that I would never go hungry for healthy food again.
I’ve spent seven weeks teaching myself to cook with varying degrees of success. Beef Goulash? Yummy. Home made turkey burgers? Not for the faint hearted. And with my transformation I’ve seen my weight start to slide off. So far I’m 17lbs down. I have a long way to go, but it doesn’t phase me the way it used to. My posture has changed, my confidence has improved and my bling - well, it’s getting there.
That’s not to say there haven’t been wobbles (and I’m not just talking about my spare tyres). There was one unfortunate Pizza Hut incident and the strange case of the Friday morning sausage roll but overall my entire attitude to food and eating has been changed.
It’s my goal that should ‘the UTV’ invite me back on the sofa next summer I’ll be able to watch the videos back without cringing (although, maybe I will at my ‘wile snobby’ accent). But more than I want to get my confidence back - just like Grace does in ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’ and realise that while size doesn’t really matter - happiness does. And, for the record, I didn’t eat the chocolate mousse and no, I didn’t even want it anyway.
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
Emily is a very talented writer who makes me howl with laughter, but she is also a very lovely person and very adept at naming books. (Rainy Days and Tuesdays was borne of her name choosing ability).
Anyway, checking out her blog today I found this post on the Seven Signs of Ageing.
And yes, I nodded in agreement the whole way through.
Thursday, December 06, 2007
My Children of the Year Awards (and yes, I do feel a certain ownership of them after six years of reading about sick and courageous wains) received the 'Life is Local: Community Initiative of 2007' Award.
For me, writing about 'real' people and true human stories is my favourite aspect of my chosen career (the day job anyway) so this was a great boost.
Sadly I wasn't at the awards ceremony so didn't get to do my Oscar style speech, but I'd like to thank my colleague Erin for sticking the lollies in the lid of the box on the night and supplying hankies when I sobbed at the stories. I'd also like to thank my husband, my child, my mammy, my agent, my window cleaner and my driving instructor.
You love me, you really love me!
(Above speech was written with tongue firmly in cheek - just in case you wondered).
I was vaguely smug and the Karma fairy bit me in the arse fair and square over it.
Yes, I had the wonderful, wonderful high that was getting published and reaching the top ten with RD&T. The whole experience was beyond my expectations and made me feel very lucky.
But there was a great deal of heartache in the last year too - the death of my father-in-law, my uncle and my sister's new father-in-law on her wedding day; the closure of my mother's amazing charity due to a lack of funding, my granny's deterioration with Alzheimer's.
So while there are things I'm excited about for next year, I'm going to stay relatively quiet (and unsmug) about them. I hope that the paperback of RD&T goes down well. I hope people like 'Blue Line Blues' and start to believe that I didn't write RD&T as an autobiography.
And I hope for personal contentment for my and my family in the coming months.
This last year has made realise that is more than enough to ask for.
The injured party (a girl, which makes it all the worse - I’m raising a woman beater) survived with minor injuries and after a scolding from me, his teacher, his daddy, his granny, his auntie and his overbearing five year-old granny-mush of a cousin, the fruit of my loins is suitably mortified and promises never, ever, ever to do it again - not even if someone hits him first, or kicks him or steals his favourite toy.
It has been a hard lesson to learn that once children step out of the warmth and love of your home, they will spend the next 15 years (or longer) making you both cringe with embarrassment and burn with pride as they find their way in the world.
I take him to school each morning, watching in that uber paranoid manner of mine which children he talks to and which talk back to him. I smile when I see him run off with his little friends, or help them find their name symbols to stick on the register board. When his teacher told me she was impressed with his verbal skills I grinned with pride. That’ll be because I’ve pushed his language development from the day he was born, chatting nine to the dozen to him about almost anything and everything, I thought smugly.
When she commented on his imaginative play, I beamed. Sure, wasn’t I just great? Encouraging my child’s wild imagination. He is surely a wee creative soul like his mammy.
Somehow that pride evaporated in 0.3 seconds when I learned of his Hong-Kong-Fuey moves at school. I was horrified. I started thinking back - had I let him see something unsuitable on TV? Had I given him any indication that lashing out was acceptable?
Had I been too lenient with naughty-step punishments, letting him away with the odd minute here and there or finding myself unable to stop the laughter at some of his recent indiscretions? (The child protesting his innocence while covered in chocolate with sweetie wrappers from the Advent calendar all around him was too cute to take seriously). It dawned on me that much as I know and accept my child is an individual with his own personality, I will always in some way see him as a reflection of me and my parenting.
I desperately don’t want him to be the class bully - the one child the other mammies steer their little darlings away from in case he becomes a bad influence on them. And up until now, he hasn’t given me too many worries on that front. For the most part he is a caring, loving and very sensitive child. If I’m sick, or upset, he will run over and smother me in kisses until I’m better.
When his darling Grandpa was ill in hospital he insisted on praying every night for his recovery. When we told him the doctor’s weren’t able to make Grandpa better he simply said he would take Grandpa to his doctor instead, as his doctor always made people better. I myself succumbed to a nasty stomach bug on Monday (not great news for my stomach, wonderful news for my diet), Joseph played the role of mammy’s nursemaid beautifully. “Mammy, I’ll get you a basin. Hold the sickies in, I’ll be quick,” he shouted, bumming his way down the stairs at the speed of light.
And when the said basin was in place, he demonstrated how I should lie over the edge of the bed and be sick and that “getting rid of all the bad sickies would make me better”. At times like that I want to keep him close to me always (Not in a weird Norman Bates /Psycho way, you understand - just in a Derry mammy way) but there are other times when I would gladly stick him up on Ebay. (One child, almost new, in good condition, obsessed with ham sandwiches.)
I doubt Joseph will forget in a hurry the lesson he learned this week at school - that if you do hit out no-one will want to be your friend. (Although bless the wee classmate who made him a pretend cup of tea after the incident to cheer him up). At the same time I won’t forget it in a hurry either.
When I left the wee man into school the following day I scanned the classroom for a sign of a wee girl in obvious distress or with any bruising so that I could personally apologise to her mammy and let her know that such behaviour is not typical of my son. Because believe me I don’t want to turn into one of those mammies who shrugs such things off with a “kids will be kids” attitude, or worse still a “My wain wouldn’t do that” attitude.
I imagine before school days are done - and probably well into adulthood - there will be many (well, hopefully only a few) such embarrassing episodes and I suppose like all aspects of parenthood I’ll have to take the rough with the smooth - encourage the good and deal with the bad head on and hope the former outweighs the latter. And if all else fails, there is always Ebay.
Friday, November 23, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
People often ask me how I find the time, or indeed the discipline and it is hard to explain. There are times I want to throw this laptop across the room in frustration. There are often stories in my head which can't seem to find their way into words and it can drive me demented.
Other times it is as if another voice is channelling through me and I can write 2000 words without blinking.
Facing a new project is daunting. When you write a book it becomes an all consuming part of your life for the duration of the project. You become your characters. When I was writing Rainy Days and Tuesdays I spent a lot of time asking myself how Grace would react in each eventuality, I had conversations with her on the bus and played out scenes in my head each night as I tried to get off to sleep.
The same was true of Beth and Aoife for Blue Line Blues - but even the best of friends can get on your nerves some times.
There are times I wonder why I'm doing this. I could manage quite well with the day job and the responsibility of parenthood without adding another "must do" into the equation, but there is a part of me that could never walk away from writing. It's in my blood.
And on those days when my characters are like annoying friends nagging to get my attention, I just remind myself that writing is a bit like marital sex.
It takes a lot of effort. Sometimes you just want to watch the TV instead or curl up with a good book, but once you get going it really is quite enjoyable and you wonder why you don't do it more!
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Monday, November 19, 2007
Chances are that if you are reading this column on Friday morning I’ll be attending his funeral in his native England and listening to my niece and nephews, and also my husband, pay tribute to a man who remained somewhat of an enigma in my life.
Being a typical Derry woman, when I first met my husband I was determined to impress his family. I knew, like many a good woman before me and since, that you don’t have family on your side you are beat from the start. But being the shy and retiring type (which honestly, I am) I was a bag of nerves.
I had two sisters and a father to impress and if all accounts from my then boyfriend were anything to go by, they would need some impressing.
I was a lowly student, living in the most godforsaken hole of digs in Belfast studying for a career in journalism. Money was on the non-existant side of tight and added to this I had a broad Derry accent, with a distinct Belfast twang which they - being very cultured from Cheshire - would struggle to understand. I met my prospective father-in-law at his daughter’s wedding.
I don’t think I opened my mouth to him apart from to offer to buy a drink and say hello (not in that order, mind). I immediately found myself in a situation where I did not know how to address him.
Of course, he told me his name was David and I was to address him as such, but he was older than my own grandparents and it seemed rude not to refer to him as Mr Allan - and yet, that seemed too formal so throughout the next 10 years of our relationship I rarely addressed him by name and just smiled a lot instead to get his attention.
If I’m honest, in my own way, I spent the last 10 years trying to show him that me, and the husband, could make a success of ourselves. He was the first member of my husband’s family to visit our house when we bought it. At the time we had furniture for just two rooms and had to hastily buy a bed and curtains for the spare room to make it habitable before his arrival.
Things went swimmingly during that first visit, we had a lovely lunch in Pitchers and he played a round of golf with my other half and then - later that evening - we went to Badgers for a quick drink as it had been recommended to him by someone in Florida, of all places.
We returned home, on that biting January night, to find the oil had run out and my husband quickly lit a fire which we huddled round until we could get an emergency top up of oil on that snowy night. I feared then that David/ Mr Allan/ the man I smiled at instead of addressing by name, would never venture to our badly run home again. But he did, when our son, who we gave the middle name of David, was just three weeks old and now one of our most treasured possessions is without a doubt our photograph of three generations of Allan men.
But when it comes to memories, perhaps our most precious will now be of the Christmas we spent in Cheshire just before Joseph turned two.
It was well documented in these pages that I didn’t really want to go. I’m a homebird and as far as Christmas is concerned I want to be by the banks of the Foyle and in driving distance of my mammy’s home baked applepie. But we went and spent our Christmas day at my father in law’s house in an idyllic setting by the River Dane. Along with his wife Kay he cooked up a storm and all the grandchildren played nicely with Joseph while we enjoyed a relaxing day playing games, eating great food and enjoying the fresh Cheshire air. We even had our very own Tiny Tim moment when, just as we sat down to eat, Joseph piped up with “Merry Christmas” in his babyish voice.
The following night, at my sister in law’s house, Joseph wanted to see the stars so as I stood in the back garden with him singing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle’, David/ Mr Allan/ the man I smiled at instead of addressing by name came and stood outside with us. We chatted for a little while before Joseph, again in his babyish voice, told his Grandpa he loved him “Oh Grandpa loves you too,” my father-in-law replied. “Very much”. And it was true.
His life was most enriched by his family, and especially his grandchildren James, Ashleigh, Ben and of course Joseph. We’re all saying goodbye this morning, and it was never going to be easiest thing in the world, but at least we have many happy and warm memories to keep us going. My own dearly departed and much loved Granda would have said, TTFN David, Ta Ta For Now.
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Last night as I put my angelic little man to bed, having said our prayers, blessed everything in sight and said our usual “I love you with all my heart, see you in the morning and I’ll be close by” I stood up to leave his room.
Joseph being in highspirited mode, decided to continue playing with his current favourite book ‘Calm Down Boris’.
In a faux American accent he declared “Am gunna kick you in the nuts”
I nearly choked. I know he now has the influence of nursery, but I’m in denial enough that my son has nuts in the first place ( a winky yes, or some equally inoffensive term) with any reference to him or anyone else kicking them.
“What did you say?” I chirped and he replied “Nothing”.
“Where did you hear that expression?” I asked.
“Scotland,” was his reply. Now I know that his Scottish pseudo cousins would never use such language and considering it is five months since we last saw them and he only just came out with I know that was a fib.
I tossed and turned through the night about my boy’s foul language and that he was now being influenced by people outside my control and got reall quite upset.
This morning as we dressed for school (to a chorus of ‘Poor poor Joseph, what you gonna do? Sit up at a table and do a smelly poo”) I asked him to repeat what he said last night
“Am gonna kick your butt” he replied, and while butt isn’t ideal, it’s less offensive that nuts. So perhaps I can rest assure that the gutter mouth hasn’t started ... yet.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Now we all know that dummy fags aren’t perhaps the most PC things in the world to be doling out to your wains. (Then again if the ‘experts’ had their way the only thing we would give our children are those godawful dried druit bars that look a bit mouldy). And personally I don’t think I’ll be taking up the chance to have my three year old pretend to smoke for the sake of a sweet treat, it did bring back some memories of my own childhood.
It’s no secret that as a child I was a bit of a gack - then again I imagine that could be true of most of us are under the age of 10. If my son and his five year old cousin are anything to go by gack-dom goes with the territory. Both have multiple personality syndromes, a stunning array of funny voices, and very endearing habits of acting the complete eejit to great effect. (Last week I got a great video of them both break dancing in Halloween costumes - the back spins were quite impressive).
Sweetie cigarettes, I would guess, played a huge role in the gackdom of a many a child of the 70s and 80s. It was long before the time when we thought smoking was uncool or dangerous and many a Derry wain would take to buying a packet of sweetie cigarettes on a cold day so that when he or shee breathed out it looked like real smoke was coming from their mouths.
There was plenty a day when the walk from Rosemount Primary School to Leenan Gardens was accompanied by such acts of grannydom as wains adopted sultry swaggers and puffed on their sweetie fags before getting home in time for She-Ra or He-Man.
Needless to say our acts of eejitness were not confined to fake smoking and watching She-Ra. There was many a hut built in the mucky field between Broadway and Beechwood. I’m sure they never really looked like anything, but for a while each afternoon we would convince each other that perhaps our make-shift dens of branches and stones would be waterproof and a suitable place to spend a night.
It never dawned on us that some overgrown wasteland was not perhaps the safest place for us to play - it certainly never felt dangerous and we were blissfully unaware of the perils of stranger danger or health and safety regulations. We were just, innocently and blissfully, having fun.
As I help my niece learn how to read, I’m also reminded of the silliness of our own methods of learning to read when I was at school. When I was in P3 we had a particularly strict teacher* and there would be a real quaking in our boots when it came to reading out loud.
Should one of our table struggle with the pronounciation of a word, we would ask our classmates and then get them to write down the word so that it would stick in our minds. It never dawned on us that scribbling down the word never actually helped us pronounce it any more than seeing it in the original book. And yet it seemed to work. It kept the scary teacher at bay and helped us progress up the ‘Peter and Jane’ ladder.
Then again that was the same year where I pretended that I wasn’t in fact going to school, but instead was going to the office to work and would dream of the day when I would have a shiny phone and computer at my use every day. (Oh, the folly of youth).
When school was over we (my sisters and brother) would climb on our imaginary horses and gallop back up Broadway. We were convinced that this made the journey home a lot quicker and that we actually did take on the speed of a galloping horse. (Then again, gackiness runs in the family. Although he will kill me for revealing this, my brother once spent a good 10 minutes in the school canteen trying to move his cup fo juice solely with the power of The Force).
Our weekends were spent putting on shows, creating dance routines (not so much for my brother, I must say) and making up songs. We were probably convinced we were Creggan’s answer to the Family Vontrapp even though it is a truth universally acknowledged that I don’t have a note in my head. (I was once told I had “a lovely voice for a choir” after bravely standing up and auditioning to the school music teacher for a place in the Feis).
It was all very innocent.
In some ways it is a shame that so much of that innocence is now gone. Sweetie Cigarettes aren’t PC. Building dens in old fields is rarely encouraged and galloping up Broadway on a make believe horse will probably end in you being referred to the community mental health team.
Still it’s nice to look back and one of these days I might just buy some sweetie cigarettes on a cold day, and if no one’s watching you might see the odd wee gallop from me.
*(For the record, the teacher wasn’t always scary. She helped us make really fabulous crib scenes out of old shoe boxes and tinfoil covered stars and once when I fell and hurt my knee she held a cold cloth to it until it stopped throbbing. She was just scary most of the time.)
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
It all worked well for the first day or so, but then, you see it got to be hard work. You see I don’t know how you single parents do it. It’s not that himself is particularly useful around the house - but it’s nice to have someone else do the dishes or lug the bin out for a change. It’s even nicer to have someone else help teach Joseph how to wipe his ass... but perhaps I’ll leave that for another day.
So in the interests of anyone wanting to know what it is like to be a glam author and journalist, I decided to compile a typical day Chez Allan for your perusal.
3am: I am woke by the cries of “Muuuuumeee! Muuuuumeeee!”. This continues until I wake up enough to stumble into the boy’s room and tell him it’s just fine for him to come into mummy’s bed. He stumbles in. I follow. He snuggles up so close I struggle to breathe. He eventually gets the hint and budges onto the other pillow. I start to drift off. "Ruuuusssteeeee!” he cries out, making me jump and awake before stumbling back into his room and lifting the raggedy stuffed dog that must go everywhere and bringing it back to him.
He snuggles up so close that I struggle to breathe again. I push him away (gently but with meaning) and start to fall back asleep until my bladder lets me know it has woken up and I stumble to the loo.
7.00 am:Ten minutes before the alarm is set to go off I wake up. It’s still dark so I think I must have hours left of sleep. Glance at the alarm clock and lose will to live. Lie there trying to get energy to get up until annoying beep of clock makes me get out of bed.
7.25: Dress and put make up on while Joseph jumps around the bed pretending to be Roary the Racing Car while I have to be Big Chris. I’m offended at being Big Chris. I am not remotely like Peter Kaye. Have to hide my annoyance to shout “One more lap” in time with brain numbing theme song and shout out “Dunk my Donuts” at regular intervals.
7.35: Make way for fecking Noddy. I hate Noddy. Really, really, really hate Noddy. The boy eats his breakfast while I try to batter GI friendly Bran Flakes into me along with 3 million grapes. (One of your five a day portions is 3 million grapes apparantly).
7.55: Fifi and her Flowertots. Persuade the boy to get dressed, brush his teeth and wear a coat as it is November. Answer 101 questions regarding what day of the week it is.
8.10am: Leave house for 7 mile trip to work. I start at 9... that gives you an indication of the traffic hell I face. Pick niece up to drop her at the childminders. Have to listen to mind-numbing C-beebies CD while travelling for 50 minutes in the car. Although I do quite enjoy the Tikkabilla Jive, especially the “Do a Little Wiggle” bit.
8.50: Arrive at the boy’s nursery school. Spend ten minutes playing with him til his classroom door opens and I’m dropped like a cold snotter in favour of the teachers who are much more fun that boring old mummy.
9.10am: Arrive in work and thank God for family friend employers. Feel as if I have done a day’s work already. Sit down and read the BBC website, my email, the Daily Mail (it helps me release my anger) and plan my day. Try to find interesting features to do - end up doing uninteresting features about uninteresting things.
11am: Have my daily mini breakdown - this is where the chocolate should come into the fray, but sadly doesn’t. Find one interesting feature to do - wonder how long I can stretch it out for.
1pm: Lunchtime - guilt free blogging, beboing and other web surfing. Eat lunch at desk while fielding phone calls about missing graduation pictures and other general rants. (Note to public: We like most of the population take a lunch break. Please do not phone us during our lunch break. It is not easy trying to talk through a mouthful of turkey and tomato)
4pm: The office giggles set it. A combination on my part of tiredness at long day and fear of what is to come with over tired child.
6.30pm: (Yes, 6.30pm) Leave work, drive the seven miles (only takes 10 minutes) to my mother’s house. Am greeted by both niece and son both now in exceptionally hyper stage. Allow them to play for “just five four minutes”
6.55pm: Let battle commence.
Me: “Joseph time to go home”
Joseph: “No, I’m plaaaaaying. Just five more minutes.”
Me: “No Joseph. Mammy is tired I need to go home. We have lots to do.” (You see this is where i think I’m going wrong - admitting weakness to a three year old is never going to end well”
Joseph: “No, I’m plaaaaying. Just five more minutes”
Cue hysteria. Me pretending to go with out him. Him clambering snottery and over tired into the back of the car telling me I’m naughty and I’m going on the naughty step and them calming down when the fecking C-Beebies CD starts to play.
(Bob the Builder. Can he fix it? I very much fecking doubt it!)
7.05pm: Arrive home. Would it be cruel to put child to bed now? Decide don’t have the strength for argument so do the dishes while he plays with random toys on the floor and insists he isn’t tired.
Pull washing which has been in the machine for two days out and smell it to check it’s not too bad. Generally sigh and wash it again - saves sorting it and drying it. Better still, saves ironing it.
7.30pm: Change boy into pyjamas. Have repeat of “five more minutes” scenario until I storm on up the stairs with the precious Russssteeeee. Encourage him to have a pre-bed pee and brush his teeth. He is rather annoyed mammy doesn’t have a winky so I can’t do peeing races with him. Agree appropriate amount of times for him to drink water direct from tap and then go to his bedroom. Hide fecking Ruuuussssteeee (for the craic) and pretend to be surprised when Joseph finds him. Read a story (if I’m lucky it’s a short one) then turn off the light, say our prayers, have a little snuggle and go downstairs.
8.10pm: Start to prepare my evening meal. Brush floors (broom up arse optional) and put away toys from the floor. Get the boy’s clothes etc ready for the morning.
9pm: Eat my dinner.
9.15pm: Start writing. One thousand words a night - minimum.
9.20pm: Change mind about one thousand words minimum. Congratulate myself on 150 words of quality reading.
9.45pm: Feel guilty at dinner dishes so wash up, then stare at the washing machine. Should I hang the washing out now? Decide to leave it as it is a fire risk to put tumbledryer on while we are in bed.
10.15pjm: Fall into comatose sleep.
You see I don't really understand the whole POV thing, or tenses really and I certainly know feck all about story arcs... I just like to write and I get very nervous when people talk very intellectually about it as I'm sure I'll be found out and held to ridicule.
Well Emma came back with the classic, which I think we should all remember from time to time..
"If you feel like you are winging it, it's because you are flying"
It seems, so I’ve learned from my online writing group, that this is quite a touchy subject. Some people like them. Some people hate them. Some people think they can come across a little false and indeed that they can take away from the business that is being a writer - itself a disgustingly solitary profession, especially in the actually writing stages.
But no writer is an island. My books are indeed written by me, but they would be not be written without the support and advice of others. Yes that can be something as simple as Mr Allan not throwing the head when I turn down some quality time together in favour of a whimsical glimpse into the life of Grace Adams and co. It has also at times for me meant people opening up, very honestly, about their experiences of counselling, loss, infertility and the trials of single-parenthood. I may have rewritten their words to make them fit in with my characters, but such insights into life are invaluable. I’ve got a great imagination but the very last thing I want to do when writing about personal issues is patronise those people who really have been there themselves.
Once the writing is done, a whole other team of people come on board to make things work. Having spoken with other people in the business I know how completely lucky I am to have an agent who doesn’t ignore emails or adopts an “only speak when spoken to” mentality. She’ll kick my arse when I need it, but allows me to kick hers back some times too and she works like a demon to support me. It would be remiss not to acknowledge that publicly.
Similarly I have a publishing house behind me who know what they are doing 100% - and inspite perhaps of their track record as market leaders in Ireland still operate on a very friendly and approachable basis. I also know they have put in hours and hours of their efforts making sure my book had the best chance possible of making it to the bestseller list.
I’m not trying to be false, or arse licking, in my acknowledgements I’m just trying to show that all these efforts are very much appreciated.
And well, maybe I like acknowledgements so much as I’m a nosy cow and love to read about authors’ great aunts and husbands, and the pet names they have for their children. It’s nice sometimes to realise that authors are real people.
Friday, November 02, 2007
I kind of liked them back in the day. I mean I enjoyed singing and dancing to “Who Do You Think You Are?” in a rather drunken state on many a night with my friends (most notably Amanda - who went the whole hog and had the ‘Ginger Spice’ hair and all).
And I thought that ‘Goodbye’ was a nice wee song - but as for the rest of them, they and their zig-a-zig-aahs remain confined that place in my brain where all twee pop songs melt into one big song which I don’t know the words too. (I often think I know the words, until I try singing it. I do this a lot ,much to the annoyance of the boy who is a lyrical genius. My latest singing faux pas is ‘I Don’t Feel Like Dancing’ by the Scissor Sisters - after the first line I’m completely lost, but I make up random noises in time to the music to pretend I know the words.)
As for the girls themselves, I thought Emma Bunton seemed like a nice sort. You know, she would be your friend and not bitch about you behind your back. Mel C, aka Sporty Spice always looked like she would hit you a slap while Mel B, aka Scary Spice was indeed scary. As for Posh and Ginger (aka Victoria Beckham and Geri Halliwell), they always just seemed to be vying for the top spot.
As far as I was concerned, with all the talk of in-fighting and bulemia, mental illness, anorexia, etc the band were not so much about girl power as they were about being a pack of bitchy girls who would have made my life hell had I been at school with them.
I didn’t shed any tears when they split up - to be honest the thought of their reuniting has me more upset. You see we all know they are in it for the money. They don’t really want to be together as a band. They have their own lives with their own levels of mediocrity to deal with and I personally think some things are best left in the past. They are all older, wrinklier and our opinion of them is jaded from years of constant and continual media coverage of everything from their love lives to their cellulite, their questionable fashion sense to whether or not they have an outbreak of spots.
Frankly, I think I speak for a lot of people out there, we actually just don’t care.
And it’s all been made worse by this week’s reports of fights during the video shoot for their new single. Emma, who God love her only had her baby 10 weeks ago and is a bundle of hormones anyway, has been bursting into tears. Posh has been acting the diva with their massive entourage, Mel B has been more concerned with practicing for the American version of ‘Strictly Come Dancing’, Geri has been annoying everyone with her new age claptrap and Mel C fears the whole thing may lead her to have another nervous breakdown.
All this kind of takes the shine off the notion of reliving our youth dancing to ‘“Who Do You Think You Are” in a packed concert for £75 a ticket.
It’s a far cry from Take That reuniting. (And for the record I wasn’t a huge Take That fan - again some of their songs were okay but my heart will forever and always belong to Matt Goss of Bros fame... no other boy band could ever earn my adoration, apart from Westlife). You see when they got back together, everybody - even those who didn’t like them first time round - got kind of excited.
We wanted to see them do well, if only to spite that ego on legs Robbie Williams. We knew they sort of actually needed the money (unlike La Beckham) and - perhaps in the biggest shock of all - when they started bringing out new songs they were actually better than the original material. As they set about putting on showstopping concerts the length and the breadth of the country, we were all cheering them on.
Even though they kind of looked like the cast of the Full Monty, with their wobbly bellies and not-so-designer stubble. I’ll admit it, I have a new admiration for Gary, Mark, Howard and the other one (never can remember his name) and with every new success that comes their way I let out a little internal cheer for the triumph of the underdog. They seem like nice people - I wish I could say the same for the Spice Girls (apart from Emma).
So with the exception of Take That and - of course, Wispas (I’m addicted, I swear they’ve put cocaine in them or something), some things should just be left as fond memories. Reunions and comebacks rarely work, instead they taint our memories.
I’ve often longed to relive certain highlights of my past but when I visit old haunts they have changed so much that it sullies my own happy memories. The in-fighting the spice camp is doing this already, and the tour hasn’t even started yet. Retire gracefully girls - remembering that if you can’t play nicely, it’s better not to play at all.
Thursday, November 01, 2007
As a ‘grand big girl’ myself I’ve both heard and used many of these expression used when describing my own appearance, and I’ve always cringed a bit when the discussion of weight comes up.
It never makes me feel good and generally speaking it never makes me wake up, have a massive epiphany, and decide to shed stones as if there is no tomorrow. In fact, the vast majority of these discussions are more likely to have me reaching for the biscuit barrel or feeding coins into the chocolate machine in a fit of low self esteem induced misery.
It’s not that I think the reports should be ignored. Of course it is worrying that as a nation we seem to have lost the ability to eat healthy, home cooked food despite constant bombardment of healthy eating information shoved at us in almost every possible way. (You can’t even soothe your hangover with a Big Mac without being told in bold colours how much food nasties are included).
But the debates do seem to divide the nation between those skinny malinkies and those of us who have struggled (and failed) with weight issues through most of their lives. One look at a popular news discussion website is enough to send anyone even a few pounds overweight plummeting into a pit of despair. “Cut benefits of overweight people!” one reader shouts. Another adds “Tax fat people £200 a week - that will stop them stuffing their faces!”
The rest of the posts are similar in tone - with a plethora of smug people saying it’s as simple as eating less and moving about more. Well, from the other side of the fence I would like to put it on the record that it is not merely as simple as eating less and moving about more.
That’s part of it - a big part of it - but it’s not that easy. If it were, we would not be facing an obesity crisis in our society. Look around people. On any given day I can go into a McDonalds and buy a burger for a £1. Walk into certain city centre cafes and you won’t get much, if any, change from £5 for a sandwich and a bottle of water.
And yes, the £5 lunch is by far tastier and generally healthier - but in a low wage economy like Derry the £1 alternative is going to win hands down. It’s also fair comment that in this town the majority of bijou eateries - where healthy food is easily available - may not actually be all that child or baby friendly.
In many you would struggle to gain access with a buggy but look at the greasy spoons and fast food restaurants - plenty of room, free toys for the kids and colouring in pages to keep them quiet while a beleaguered mum and dad grab a quick bite. In addition look in the shopping centres, sport centres etc in this town.
If you want a quick snack what choice do you have from vending machines? Apart from the solitary organic fruit machine in the back end of Foyleside, your choice is pretty much limited to chocolate, crisps and sweets. For the love of God, when you come out of the swimming pool at Lisnagelvin there are several sweetie machines there tempting you to undo all the good work of your swim! It’s not as easy as just eating less and moving more when everywhere you look fatty, sugary foods are both cheaper and more accessible than a healthy alternative. And we are a nation filled with mixed messages.
We’ve all been told for years to clear our plates - there are starving wains in Africa to the point that I know several people who feel guilty if they leave food on their plate or who spend ten minutes each night pleading with their children to “eat just one more bite”.
If we aren’t hungry - if we are simply full up - then let it go. Leave food, cook smaller portions; but whatever you do stop forcing or encouraging people to eat when they don’t want to. Finally there is the issue of emotional eating. I’m one of those sad creatures who eats to celebrate, eats when I’m sad, eats when I’m bored etc.
Food is such a big part of our society that - much like drink - we tend to turn to it when we want a wee boost. So many of our social occasions surround food and drink that mixed messages once again get through. A report in the Daily Mail this week showed that one in seven women has tried cocaine or speed in an attempt to lose weight. Three out of ten women have made themselves sick after eating. One in four have taken laxatives. One in three have taken slimming pills. A half of women lie about what they eat. A quarter have hidden food. Eighty per cent of women have dieting at least once in their lives.
Those figures disturb me more than those which reveal we are turning into a nation of fatties. Young women are obsessed with their figure to the point they are risking their lives to be thin - and all the while they are bombarded with messages that being overweight equates with be lazy, selfish or stupid.
It’s time we all went back to basics. Get rid of the sweetie machines, make our parks more accessible and our leisure facilities a little cheaper, open a child friendly healthy eating cafe. And then maybe, we might just all find a little easier to eat less and move about more and we won’t have to resort to Class A drugs or Bulemia to help control our weight.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Monday, October 22, 2007
Forgive me, it's been a manic few weeks.
First the boy was sick in a vomitous stylee, then I saw the most humongously fat picture of myself and had a mini breakdown of the starvation sort (Not wise and not recommended) - then I got my sh*t together (I'm so down with the kids, innit?) and started on the GI Diet which is making me feel quite healthy but also quite windy (Seriously, don't light a match near me, I can't vouch you will get out alive). I've also been rather addicted to SCD (Will post a link to Keris' fab review asap) and writing , oooh and reading Emma Heatherington's debut novel which is FAB and indeed which I'm going to go to bed to read more of as soon as I've finished this latest bit on book three.
I'm also trying to think of publicity strategies to give RD&T a wee boost as we come into the festive season. Short of shouting:
BUY MY FECKING BOOK FOR CHRISTMAS!
at the top of my lungs, I'm not sure where to go with that. All ideas are welcome and well, here's the thing, I've been made a Site Expert on www.writewords.org.uk which is very nice indeed, but it means I am reading a lot of delicious new Chick Lit and trying to offer words of wisdom - so v. busy in other words.
But I do love you (all one of my loyal readers) and I promise to start updating a leetle bit more regularly soon.
In the meantime, don't go changin'
* Disclaimer - this post was written following a week long banning of chocolate. The poster may well be in some sort of hysteria at the time of writing.
Friday, October 12, 2007
When I read the book I really, truly found it an emotional rollercoaster and while it is a gentle, beautiful story it makes me well up.
Today, while compiling a list of toddler classics for our Foyle News publication, I thought on the book and remembered it.
Reading it again, and now from a position where my beloved granny has Alzheimers and no longer recognises or remembers me, or indeed her own children, it was so very emotional.
The text of the book is as follows- so granny, I'll love you forever, I'll like you for always. As long as I'm living, my granny you'll be."
A mother held her new baby and
very slowly rocked him back and forth,
back and forth,
back and forth.A
nd while she held him, she sang:I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.
The baby grew. He grew and he grew
and he grew. He grew until he
was two years old, and he ran all around the house.
He pulled all the books
off the shelves. He pulled all the food
out of the refrigerator and he took his
mother's watch and flushed it down the
toilet. Sometimes his mother would say,"This kid is driving me CRAZY!"
But at night time, when that two-year-old was quiet, she opened the door
to his room, crawled across the floor,
looked up over the side of his bed;
and if he was really asleep she picked
him up and rocked him back and forth,
back and forth, back and forth.
While she rocked him she sang:
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.
The little boy grew. He grew and he grew
and he grew. He grew until he was nine
years old. And he never wanted to come
in for dinner, he never wanted to take a bath,
and when grandma visited he always
said bad words. Sometimes his mother
wanted to sell him to the ZOO!
But at night time, when he was
asleep, the mother quietly opened the
door to his room, crawled across
the floor and looked up over the side ofthe bed.
If he was really asleep,
she picked up that nine-year-old boy
and rocked him back and forth,
back and forth, back and forth.
And while she rocked him she sang:
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.
The boy grew. He grew and he
grew and he grew. He grew until he was
a teenager. He had strange friends
and he wore strange clothes and he
listened to strange music.
Sometimes the mother felt like she
was in a ZOO!But at night time, when that teenager
was asleep, the mother opened the door
to his room, crawled across the floor and looked up over the side of the bed.
If he was really asleep she
picked up that great big boy and rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
While she rocked him she sang:
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.
That teenager grew. He grew and he
grew and he grew. He grew until he was a grown-up man.
He left home and got a house across town.
But sometimes on dark nights
the mother got into her car and drove
If all the lights in her son's house were out, she opened his bedroom
window, crawled across the floor,
and looked up over the side of his bed.
If that great big man was really asleep she picked him up and rocked him back and forth, back and forth, back and forth.
And while she rocked him she sang:
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.
Well, that mother, she got older.
She got older and older and older.
One day she called up her son and said,
"You'd better come see me because
I'm very old and sick."
So her son came to see her.
When he came in the door she tried
to sing the song. She sang:I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always...But she couldn't finish because she
was too old and sick.
The son went to his mother.
He picked her up and rocked
her back and forth, back and forth,
back and forth.
And he sang his song: I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living my baby you'll be.
When the son came home that night,
he stood for a long time at the top of the stairs.
Then he went into the room where his very new baby daughter
was sleeping. He picked her up in
his arms and very slowly rockedher back and forth, back and forth,
back and forth.
And while he rocked her he sang:
I'll love you forever,
I'll like you for always,
As long as I'm living
my baby you'll be.
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Monday, October 08, 2007
Then – the final salt in the wound – the Irish fans were locked in – yes, locked in – for 15 minutes at the end of the match, to let the 6 Slovak fans home safely (yes, I had originally thought there were 13 Slovak fans but 7 of them were Irish who had had to buy Slovak tickets because all the Irish ones were sold.)
It's the way she tells them.
Friday, October 05, 2007
As a journalist and writer I’m nosy by nature and I like seeing pictures of celebrities caught out with no make up on or flashing a bit of cellulite. It helps me feel just that little eeny bit more human as I rattle out of the house with the look of Wurzel Gummidge about me on the average morning.
Of course there are times when my hunger for celebrity gossip doesn’t make me feel so crash hot. When I see new yummy mummies stroll about back in their skinny jeans looking like they just stepped out of a salon, I can’t help but cast a downward glance at my sagging boobs, be-stretchmarked tummy and thunderous thighs and feel like giving up.
You see the boy is nearly four. (Every time I say that I almost convulse with shock, by the way - he still feels about three minutes old). For the first six months of his life I staggered about in comfy tracksuit bottoms and T-shirts with a look of the undead about me. I wouldn’t dare flash my midriff to anyone in case they got lost in the folds and (almost) four years on, I’m still not prepared to flash a bit of flesh.
I was comforted therefore to see pictures of Charlotte Church - former wild child - who recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl Ruby and read about her birth experience. Ms Church wasn’t one of those celebrities who sported an eeny bump and opted for a scheduled section. She blossomed all over, piled on weight and gave birth in her living room (in a birthing pool, mind) while watching the rugby. Her waters broke in the car park of B&Q and she described the pain of labour as “outrageous”.
She is now revelling in motherhood and has no plans to return to her wild ways. She is also refusing to fall into the celebrity trap of spending the first weeks and months of Ruby’s life slaving it out with a personal trainer and eating mung beans washed down with celery juice so that she regains her figure quick smart. "I think it's sad when people get obsessed with all of that,” she said this week. “I'm pretty happy with the way I am and I bagged Gavin so I can't be doing that badly, can I?"
Her transformation from ‘Crazy Chick’ to earth mother is refreshing and a stark contrast to the other celebrity mums filling the column inches at the moment. Both Britney Spears and Kerry Katona seem to be on track for self-destruction if they keep going the way they are.
With rumours of drug abuse, excess drinking and God knows what else following them around like a bad smell I feel heart sorry for them. Then again, I guess I feel more sorry for the kids. Now I know from first hand experience that being a parent is tough. I’m struggling with the boy’s transition to nursery at the moment and over-analysing every comment from the staff to see if he is behaving or becoming the class hood. I feel that every bold wee thing he does - as three (nearly four) years old tend to do - is a direct reflection on my parenting skills so I can imagine that having your parenting skills analysed by the world’s media and countless readers and viewers must be excrutiatingly difficult. But then again, both these women really could make an effort.
Falling out of cars with no underwear on into the glare of a the paparazzi’s flash bulbs isn’t ever going to win you a parent of the year award. Nor is talking openly about dabbling in drugs and leaving your children for weeks on end to go on promotional trips and then not being able to locate them. Both Britney and Kerry’s (we know them so well I feel I can refer to them on a first name basis) children are very young and I can’t help but feel that irreperable damage is being done by these ongoing antics. The old argument that they are too young to remember doesn’t cut it with me.
My soon to be four year old still blanches with fear when I mention a trip to Dublin - so devastated was he that his darling mother left him for two whole days during the summer to promote her book. “No mummy,” he cries, “Don’t go to Duv-lin. Stay with meeeeeee.” And then he sobs his heart out, for about 10 minutes, and snotters everywhere and I have to promise him mammy is never, ever, ever going away again, even for five minutes, and if he wants I’ll actually phone the hospital and see if they still have the umbilical cord so we can be reattached. And that’s only a wee trip to Dublin not an obsession with being famous, getting trollied and spending weeks at a time living it up away from my wain.
If you want to be a parent - be you one of the ordinary people like me, or a celeb like Britney - then be a parent. Part of the deal is that you put your kids first. When you decide to have children you lose your right to party like it is 1999, or focus entirely on your own goals.
Your children need you like they will never need anyone or anything else in their lives again. And I know that childhood really does pass in the blink of an eye. Take a leaf out of Charlotte Church’s book and hang up your party shoes for now. Trust me, you can have just as much fun sitting on a floor singing ‘Row, Row, Row The Boat’ and the hangover isn’t half as bad the next day.
Thursday, October 04, 2007
I've also had time to update my website www.claireallan.com and add a newsletter where I thank everyone for their support over the past number of months.
I would be fibbing however to say thinks didn't feel a little odd now that the flurry of emails and phonecalls has slowed to a near stop and it's just back to ordinary life!
I am getting to read a little however, and have a stack of books growing on the bedside table for my attention.
Tuesday, October 02, 2007
I'll miss Mark though... it won't be the same without him!
Monday, October 01, 2007
But it's there now and last night as I sat down to write I had to tear myself away after an hour - the words were flowing, and they were good words, in the right order, with the right mix of humour and sorrow and I'm so very, very proud of them.
My characters are coming to life in front of my eyes - filling out, becoming real and I'm becoming obsessed with them - all good signs with the writing process.
As I finish each book I have a painful letting go period. My characters do become such a huge part of my life that it is hard to let go of them and think that anyone could be better than Grace, or Aoife or Beth or the lovely Auntie Anna. I feel, after every book, that there is no way the next can be as good or better and I have to allow myself a little grieving period for letting them go.
This has been a hard summer in terms of letting go of all my previous creations, but now Niamh, Ruth, Liam and Ruby are ready to rock. It's going to be fun getting to know them!
Sunday, September 30, 2007
Friday, September 28, 2007
There are few circumstances where I believe it is right to extinguish the life of an unborn baby and in an ideal world we would not have abortion - unwanted pregnancies could lead to much wanted children for childless couples. I state in “an ideal world” because sadly the world we live in is far from ideal and because of that there are times when tough choices have to be made.
There are times when we really are faced with choosing the lesser of two evils and this is why the debate over Amnesty International’s decision to support abortion for rape or incest victims is not the black and white issue some would like to make us believe.
I’ve been incensed as Catholic schools have withdrawn their support for Amnesty over this issue and even more incensed to read social commentators tell us that we have to stop Amnesty killing “all the wee babies”. Life, sadly and cruelly, is not all huggy, happy, holy, Irish cute baby-tastic.
At times it is unbearably evil and there are times when, as painful as it might be to others, the rights of the mother have to come into consideration. I’ll admit that until quite recently I was largely ignorant of the goings on in Darfur. Since becoming a mother I’ve switched off from a lot of the nastiness of the world finding that it takes little more than an ad for baby formula, never mind genocide, to tip me off into floods of tears.
I didn’t switch off from American drama series ‘ER’ however, and about a year ago the programme makers portrayed two of its doctors going to Darfur as part of Medicine San Frontiers. I was shocked by what I saw and against my better judgement (and my fragile emotional state) I went online and researched the human rights violations in the heart of Sudan.
Thousands of women and children have been raped as a weapon of war. Children as young as six or seven have been gang-raped in front of their parents. Should anyone speak out against the Sudanese army, or the Janjaweed (the militia who work alongside them) they face rape, torture and death.
When these women are raped, their lives are destroyed entirely. In a large number of cases they are ostracised from their families and their communities and left to fend for themselves in a war-torn country. If they fall pregnant as a result of their rape, their children are often abandoned, disowned or taken from them. Both mother and child face destitution, starvation and death.
There have been reported cases of pregnant rape victims being arrested and jailed for having sex outside of marriage and for unlawful pregnancy.
Due to the violence of their attacks many of these women suffer severe internal damage. When giving birth, women who have been raped are prone to developing fistulas (internal tearing which does not heal) and lose control of their bladder or bowel functions.
They become further isolated as a result of their incontinence - and that’s only if the attack hasn’t left them subject to infections such as HIV or Hepatitis - for which treatment is rarely available in refugee camps. far from an ideal world For these women, life holds no hope. There is no way to hide their status as “victim” as their bellies grow.
In an ideal world there would be medical treatment available to help these women survive the physical and emotional trauma of what has happened to them.
In an ideal world there would be a sea-change of cultural thought so that their communities embraced them and helped in their recovery.
In an ideal world their babies would be loved and welcomed as new lives, separate from the crimes of their father.
But as I have said, this is far from an ideal world.
Kate Gilmore, spokesperson for Amnesty International cites the situation in Darfur when explaining her organisation’s decision to support abortion in cases of rape and incest. "Amnesty International's position is not for abortion as a right but for women's human rights to be free of fear, threat and coercion as they manage all consequences of rape and other grave human rights violations," she said, adding: "Amnesty International stands alongside the victims and survivors of human rights violations.
"Our policy reflects our obligation of solidarity as a human rights movement with, for example, the rape survivor in Darfur who, because she is left pregnant as a result of the enemy, is further ostracised by her community. “Ours is a movement dedicated to upholding human rights, not specific theologies. Our purpose invokes the law and the state, not God."
It’s a very brave move by Amnesty - one they know will have lost them supporters, but there is nothing easy or black and white about the situation the women in Darfur are facing. It’s very easy, in our Western world with our peace-time morality to make blanket judgements about Amnesty and their decision but I for one applaud their bravery and until a time when women have the basic rights to life themselves we cannot that they too deserve consideration, help and support.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Personally speaking I look back with mixed feelings. I don’t like seeing photographs of a teenage me with my spiral perms, teenage skin and questionable sense of style. There were times when I felt like an odd one out - a fairly swotty geeky weed in among the roses of the popular bunch at school.
But I have many happy memories as well. I was lucky in that I had a bunch of great - perhaps equally geeky in hindsight - friends who didn’t mind having a bit of craic and enjoying our earlier teenage years as some of sort of extended childhood. Yes, I’ll admit I was still playing with Barbies at 11 and 12. And yes, I was still making up dance routines at 14 or 15 and wearing sensible shoes at 17. (I wore my first pair of high heels - which were probably all of two inches high - to my sixth year formal and, trust me, I spent the whole night trying not to fall on my rear end).
I’ll also give my halo a wee polish as I admit that I didn’t touch a drop of alcohol until my 18th birthday and on that night sipped less than half a glass of West Coast Cooler terrified that any more would have me legless. So while I cringe at some of the memories and look at some of the stylish teenage girls wandering about up the town these days with a pang of jealousy, I’m still glad that life was relatively innocent.
This week a group of journalists got together at a fancy conference to discuss what young girls really think, and how what they think is influenced by the media. Coming in for criticism were teen mags Bliss, Sugar and Mizz for features which encourage young readers - some as young as 10 - to send in their pictures and ask fellow readers to rate them. Options including marks out of 10, and ratings of ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Minging’ are available and, in one case, if you don’t like your picture you can always airbrush it.
Now I say this knowing that if someone were to present me with a picture of a 13 year old me right now I would jump at the chance of airbrushing and retouching it - there is a particularly horrendous Brosette picture of me doing the rounds somewhere - but still it saddens me that this is the culture in which today’s teenage girls are being brought up. The emphasis of these magazine features is on appearance, something which many women feel vulnerable about, especially young women who’s bodies are changing and developing every day. To open a young person up for criticism in a magazine or online by their peers is irresponsible to a fault - and to then promote airbrushing as an answer to physical flaws is offensive.
Whatever happened to the school of thought that the media should be encouraging young people to be happy in their own skin? Shouldn’t we be putting the message out there that it doesn’t matter what you look like as long as you are happy and content with yourself as a person? Should we really be encouraging a culture where appearance matters more than character or where young people can be subjected to online anonymous bullying from people who think it is funny to click the “minger” button? I was discussing this very issue yesterday afternoon with my VBF Vicki, who drew my attention to a new series on Channel 4 with the delightful title ‘How To Dump Your Mates?’
What this new programme does is take teenagers who are unhappy with their lives and give them a chance to turn themselves around. Well - it might all sound good and bit huggy-feely, but read a little deeper and it’s hard not to wonder how this programme could be more damaging than helpful. The programme takes five kids, gets them to tell their existing friends what they dislike about them and why they want to change - and then dump them for four days while they make new friends . (Are you following this? Gets a bit complicated I know).
Then at the end of the four days the original teenage guinea pig has to choose between their old friends and their new friends. I think there is a fatal flaw in this reasoning. First of all if one of my closest ‘friends’ took me to one side (on national TV) and told me all the things they disliked about me and my lifestyle and then dumped me in favour of new friends before coming crawling back I would tell them exactly what they could do with their friendship. (And trust me it would involve insertion into an orifice of their choosing).
I say that as an adult who can at least rationalise that some friendships are worth keeping while others simply are not, but if that happened to me as a teenager I would have been devastated. As I said my geeky band of friends (really hope that they know I’m calling them geeky with love in my heart) were everything to me back in those heady late 80s and I would have been lost without them.
So it angers me that along with looks being considered the be all and end all of life for teenage girls that they are now also being encouraged to think of their friends as dispensible commodoties to be picked up or dropped whenever it suits. There are times when I feel ancient as a 31 one year old, when I see a wrinkle and cringe, but I’d rather be me right here and right now than a teenager in a world where it is almost impossible to be considered good enough.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
I alos enjoy greatly choosing a headline of the week - you know the kind of story I wish as a journalist I'd written.
I may even make a scrapbook one of these days.
But anyway, this week's headline of the week, courtesy of page one of 'That's Life' magazine is "Bride's Amazing Rotating Breasts".
I only wish the story lived up to the headline, but it was only another botched boob job story. In a completely non-lesbian way I would have loved to have read about real rotating breasts.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
If he could, he would eat them for breakfast, lunch AND dinner.
Yesterday as my aunt/childminder picked him up from nursery she asked what he would like for lunch.
His reply, as usual was "A ham sandwich".
"But Joseph," my aunt replied "If you keep eating so many ham sandwiches you will turn into one."
He burst into tears - sobbing his heart out - "But I don't want to be a ham sandwich. I just want to be Joseph."
Is it wrong that I laughed my head off when I heard that story?
Monday, September 17, 2007
What have you just read?
Never Say Never by Melissa Hill- shameless escapism and a cracking good read apart from unrealistic book advance storyline which made me mad. Still - loving Ms. Hill she can do little wrong.
What are you reading now?
The Bad Bride's Tale by Polly Williams. Loved her first book - too early into this one to pass opinion.
Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?
I will be devouring Crazy for You by fellow Northern Irish debut author Emma Heatherington which is out at the start of October. I am VERY excited about that one.
What’s the worst thing you were ever forced to read?
It's a toss up between 'The Invisible Man' by Ralph W. Emerson or 'A Place Called Here' by Cecelia Ahern. Both very different books - both likely to make me want to kill myself with boredom.
What’s one book you always recommend to just about anyone?
Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes - funny, sad, uplifting, devastating and with a generous use of the word feck.
Admit it, sadly the librarians at your library know you on a first name basis, don’t they?
Sadly no, but they know me in Eason
Is there a book you absolutely love, but for some reason, people never think it sounds interesting, or maybe they read it and don’t like it at all?
Oooh, dunno. That's a tough one. Probably my own! ;)
Do you read books while you eat?
While you bathe?
As generally I shower it would be a bad move. Bed is my favourite reading spot.
While you watch movies or tv?
I do often have TV on in the background, down low.
While you listen to music?
No - but I rarely listen to music anymore unless nursery rhymes count.
While you’re on the computer?
Nope. Unless it's something from my Write Words girlies.
When you were little did other children tease you about your reading habits?
Yes, I was a total bookworm and always had my head in a Secret Seven book.
What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?
I think My Best Friends Girl by Dorothy Koomson. I just wanted to know what was coming next.
Have any books made you cry?
See above. But books make me cry - very easily. Most Marian Keyes will have been wailing at some stage and Queen Mum by Kate Long broke my heart.