Monday, February 26, 2007

Proper dot com

If the notion takes you, you can now read all about me and my book at

There is a wee blog there too, but it's not as good as this one... honest

Mammy Dearest

THEY SAY it comes to us all and this week I realised I have finally morphed into my darling mother. I’m not sure when or how it started, but the transformation is all but complete.
All that is missing is a wee vodka on a Friday night and an addiction to Corrie. You may asked how this realisation hit me and the answer is simple- it started the day I gave birth and has rumbled on ever since, growing and taking over right up to the point where I am now saying and doing things I swore I never, ever would.
Last weekend I found myself in the middle of a discipline crisis with the wee man. Having walked out in front of a car on Chapel Road and saved only by the grace of God and my (for once) lightning quick reactions, he was already on a warning about road safety. Being three, (although he tells anyone who will listen that he is six) I really think it is high time Joseph was aware that a battle between a young child and car doing 30mph is never going to end in favour of the child. He seems to disagree. He is thran like that. (Takes after his father with the thranness - I am a model of patience and flexibility).
Later on the same day, as we were walking through the car park at Homebase the wee man decided once again to make a bid for freedom and once again it was only the grace of God and my (for the second time ever) lightning quick reaction that saved him.
I was shocked and scared and I’ll admit that even though it goes against my principles as a parent, I gave him a wee smack on the bum and told him he was never to run out in front of cars again. Being at a age where he is prone to over-dramatising things (again a trait he gets from his father- I NEVER exaggerate), he went into fits of tears telling me “Mammy, you made me sad.” And there it was, the minute my mother’s voice came out of my mouth and told him (in as broad a Derry accent as I could muster) “I’d rather make you sad than bury you.”
He looked at me, mouthly slightly agape, not one bit impressed with my excuse and I realised my transition to mammyhood was complete. It had been creeping up for a while. I should have read the warning signs.
Things got a bit suss when, after coming in to the house after work, I found I was no longer happy to traipse about in my fancy heels for the remainder of the evening. I now it find it much more comfortable to sit down and make a soothing “Aaaah” sound as I peel my boots off and slip my feet into my furry slippers.
Then it went one step further. I was no longer happy to wander about the house in my work clothes post 7pm. No, now I put on my jammies- complete with elasticated waistband and relax. Life is too short not to enjoy the pleasures of an elasticated waistband.
Of course my house has also become mammy-fied. I’ve developed a sad little love affair with the Betterware catalogue, suddenly seeing the benefit of all that stuff I’d previously dismissed as a wee bit tacky. I got a great wee broom that fits into corners and tight spaces and I’m very happy with it. My love for it is right up there with my love for my fancy bagless hoover which shows us up for the dirty clats we really are. (Seriously, I’m shamed every time I hoover).
I’ve also taken to wandering around Tesco on a Sunday sniffing the scented candles to see which one would give my living room a lift. When I’m not doing that I’m comparing washing powders and fabric softeners or looking for a decent cut of meat to make a nice casserole with.
In theory I have no problem with turning into my mammy. I quite like her. In fact I kind of love her and I have no complaints about how she raised me. (Well I do in fact have two complaints: the first relating to a miscarriage of justice over who drank the last of the milk and the second over her persistant singing of ‘Who’s At The Window, Who?’ which scared the bejaysus out of me.)
In practice though, the fact that I’m turning into my mother means that I’m becoming a proper grown up. I’ve made my peace with the fact I’m now on the wrong side of 30, but I don’t think I’ve made my peace with the fact that I’m no longer a wee young thing who is down with the kids. It’s sad to think that in terms of ‘cool’ I’m on a hiding to nothing. It’s only a matter of time before I start whinging that they don’t make proper pop songs anymore and opt for a pair of comfortable, flat shoes for work.
That said, my mother- who is now 50- seems to be enjoying somewhat of a second youth. While I’m in my bed for 11 every night, she can sit up yapping with her friends til the wee hours and not die of exhaustion the next day. Maybe if I wait another 20 years I might find that I’ve gone full circle and am officially trendy again. And hopefully when I get to that stage Joseph will think his old mammy is pretty cool.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Why do you have to be a heartbreaker?

THANK CRUNCHIE that Valentine’s Day has come and gone. I can’t stand the utter commercialism of it. I can handle the arrival of Christmas decorations in the shops in September or Easter Eggs popping into the shop windows on Boxing Day, but I have no stomach for the plethora of pink, red and fluff that swamps our shops for first six weeks of each year.
Visiting Tesco last weekend, I found- alongside the rows upon rows of cards to beloved husbands, wives, fiances, fiancees, girlfriends, boyfriends, mothers, fathers and even friends- heart shaped lights, candle sets, heart shaped ice cube trays, chocolates by the bucketloads and questionable thong style underwear; not to mention the flowers (real AND fake) and the food marketed to be a natural aphrodisiac.
I hate to sound like a Valentine’s Scrouge but why, oh why, should we or do we need a designated day of the year to tell someone we love them? And let’s face it the idea of an anonymous Valentine is not as appealing as it once was in years gone by. Fifteen years ago it was cool to have a secret admirer- but nowadays the average single white female might be more inclined to fear a stalker is on the loose.
That’s not to say I’m not a romantic at heart. My idea of heaven is a nice meal out with Mr Allan, followed by a couple of glasses of wine at home in front of the fire while we chatter about everything and anything. In a similar vein I am addicted to romantic comedies.
Forget scary movies and thrillers, give me something with Hugh Grant, Sandra Bullock and perhaps a song on the soundtrack by Ronan Keating and Bob’s your uncle. In fact I have often been the subject of much ribbing in the past because of my penchant for slush, sappiness and hearts and flowers. My back catalogue of tapes (which now reside in my car because it’s so old it doesn’t have a CD player) include choice power ballads from the likes of Mariah Carey and Celine Dion.
Even my very best friend, who probably knows me even better than my husband and my mother put together, was shocked - nay disgusted- to find a copy of Lionel Ritchie’s Greatest Hits in the tape player. I’m a great fan of singing in the shower- of crooning a tuneless rendition of ‘Endless Love’ or ‘Truly’ to my heart’s content. I’ve been known to send the odd romantic text and cry at weddings. But my love for love stops short of over commercialised Hallmark occasions. I think Valentine’s Day makes more people miserable than happy.
Single people by and large spend the day feeling lonely and isolated from some great ‘in love’ club, while those of us who are paired off spend the day jumping at the opening of the door or the clattering of a letterbox waiting for a token of our partner’s esteem.
There is a pressure to be happy and content on Valentine’s Day that is cloying. When I finish work on a Wednesday I don’t want to have dress up to pay for over priced food in an overcrowded restaurant . I don’t want a three course home cooked dinner with champagne and strawberries because I know I’ll be the one doing the dishes come the following morning.
As for making the effort with thong underwear and push up bras- I’ll spare you the mental image and myself the discomfort, if you don’t mind. Give me my furry slippers, my super comfy dressing gown that makes me look like the abominable snowman but feel as if I’m enveloped in a gorgeous big hug. On a Wednesday evening, I don’t want high romance.
I want to sit down and watch ‘Location, Location, Location’ with my laptop on my knee as I batter out another chapter and sip some ice cold Pinot Grigio. And then I want to go to bed- to sleep! I’d rather any acts of romance or affection from my other half where spontaneous and unexpected. I
prefer someone to say they love me because in that moment they really, truly love me not because some company who make a fortune out of our love affair with love tell them they should love me. So this year we banned the big day in our house. There was no talk of flowers or cards- no romantic repast waiting for me when I came home.
We may make it out for dinner at the weekend, if the notion takes us and we are planning a romantic break for later in the year. I’m happy enough to accept that my husband still loves me after 10 years together, and maybe one day in a couple of weeks I’ll get a bunch of flowers out of the blue to prove it. But Cupid can keep his bows for someone else, and someone else can get my card. And as for the thongs, go for it if you feel brave enough.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Amazon woman!

Rainy Days and Tuesdays is now available for pre-order on Amazon!


Wednesday, February 14, 2007

For a short time only...

Posting this only for Valentine's Night! How excited am I?
Sorry if you missed it! I promise the cover will reappear closer to the launch!
Thanks for the kind words and the page views.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

A hard hitting issue

IT’S NO secret that I’m a big fan of Fern Britton. I think the ‘This Morning’ presenter is just so damn likeable that I would love to meet her for a cup of coffee, a glass of wine and good old fashioned girlie chat.
She seems to be quite genuinely happy and content in her own skin and she isn’t one of these celebs who constantly professes to being content with their size and appearance before half killing themselves on a crash diet every six months.
As a television presenter she has a natural warmth and grace which make her very watchable and I can’t help but double over in kinks when she takes a giggling fit with co-presenter Philip Schofield. (My one time obsession with Philip will no doubt merit a column of its own one of these fine days.)
I wouldn’t go as far as to say I’m her celebrity stalker, but if I see her on the telly or in a magazine I’ll most probably make a point of checking it out.
It was precisely because she seems a genuinely happy and positive person that it was a bit of a shock to uncover a picture of her displaying domestic violence injuries while surfing the internet this week. The picture made me sit up and take notice- which was exactly what it was meant to do. Thankfully for Fern the images weren’t real.
They were created by very clever make up artists working on the new campaign by Women’s Aid to highlight the fact that domestic violence can happen to any woman, any time and any where. Fern is just one of a number of a celebrities who have agreed to endorse the campaign and raise awareness of domestic violence by allowing themselves to be portrayed with graphic injuries.
Of course the campaign has its begrudgers and complainers. There are those who say Fern and co are concerned primarily with raising their own profiles and that people who are truly affected by domestic violence will not draw any benefit from campaigns such as these. I have to say I think that is a cynical and unwarranted attitude.
Yes, research shows that if a woman (or indeed a man) is a victim of domestic violence it is rare that any amount of prodding from well meaning celebrities or anyone else will encourage them to leave a relationship unless they are ready to walk out themselves. But those facts don’t mean we should brush it under the carpet or steer clear of awareness raining campaigns.
I don’t think Fern Britton clattering herself in make up to look as though she has had the life battered out of her will make an abused woman sit up and take notice, but it might just make the rest of us realise that real and horrifying acts of cruelty are happening right under our noses on a daily basis. I know people who have been subjected to domestic violence. They aren’t always the quiet wee mouse cowering in the corner. Some of these women are beautiful, successful and seemingly confident women who to the casual observer would look as though they had it all.
But domestic violence has a way of seeping into your consciousness or zapping you of the strength to walk out the door and admit that something is very, very wrong. Some women sadly will see the acts of violence meeted out to them by their partners as somehow reflecting a weakness on their part.
For those women admitting that they are being subjected to physical, emotional and mental abuse is admiting a weakness on their part and so it is hushed up. Others, of course, may have become so used to the abuse that dare I say they are almost immune to it.
Sadly abuse can be so sustained and intense that it no longer seems abnormal. Some women will even feel they deserve to be treated that way. Despite figures which were released this week revealing that domestic violence rates have dropped considerably in the Derry area, Marie Brown of Foyle Women’s Aid has said that the majority of women subjected to violence in the home will never report the crimes against them.
We have to wonder why then the issue remains such a taboo that it takes such a hard hitting (no pun intended) campaign to bring it back into the public consciousness. It’s only right that issues such as these are forced upon us- that we have our eyes opened to the reality of life in this city, this country and throughout the world for some women.
We may like to think we live in an era of gender equality and in a place where sisters are always doing it for themselves but the reality is that even in your own street some woman- somebody’s mother, sister, friend, cousin, aunt or granny- is living in a state of fear.
So I applaud Fern Britton and everyone involved in the campaign. If it makes just one person sit up and think about domestic violence, and if it makes just one person say enough is enough then that’s good enough for me.

My Novel Journey

‘JOURNAL’ reporter Claire Allan, in a new monthly column, charts her journey to becoming a published author. Her first novel, ‘Rainy Days and Tuesdays’ will be published by Poolbeg in August 07.

IT’S HARD to believe that in six months I’ll be able to walk into Eason in Foyleside and pick up a copy of my own book. I’m sure I’ll probably be too embarrassed to buy it in case the girl at the till thinks I’m full of myself, but if I wear a pair of sunglasses and a wig I may well just be able to get away with standing and staring at it lovingly for an hour or two.
For me, getting published really is a lifelong dream come true. I’ve always loved writing- churning out tacky short stories and dodgy poetry regularly when I was a teenager.
When I started working as a journalist however I did let my little hobby slide a bit. Having spent all day sat in front of a computer writing news stories, the last thing I wanted to do in evening was switch on my home PC and write some more. But last year, something in me snapped.
I always said I wanted to write and as I was fast approaching 30, I developed a now or never attitude to the process. Stories which had been bubbling away in my subconscious for years started to fight to get out and when I did make the decision and sit down to write I found I couldn’t stop. Words started to spill out. The story started to take on a life of it’s own and I would find myself working through scenes in my head as I drove to work, or tried to get to sleep, or did the shopping. It became a bit of an obsession and an addiction, if I’m honest.
I finished my book, which back then was called ‘This Little Piggy’ last June. Or at least I thought I had finished it. I didn’t realise just what kind of a journey I would have over the following months as I tried to get an agent, worked on her suggested rewrites, submitted it to publishers and prayed someone would believe in it, and me, enough to take me on.
I was lucky by industry standards in that I was picked up by an agent pretty quickly and without having to resort to hysterics, bribery or blackmail.
Being hopelessly impatient that particular process was not good for my general mental health. I became obsessional about checking my emails and each time I answered the phone, I didn’t allow myself breathe out until I had ascertained whether or not the person on the other end had a Dublin accent and could in fact be an agent coming to me with good news.
But that wait was nothing compared to the wait to hear back from publishers. My nails were chewed down to the bone, my nerves were in tatters and I spent an inordinate amount of time promising the Big Man upstairs the sun, moon and stars if only this wee dream were to come true.
And it did. To be accepted by a publisher is amazing. To be accepted by Poolbeg, who publish some of my great heroes, was beyond amazing. Again though, it only marked the start of another journey- one where I have to continually push myself beyond my comfort zone. First of all we had to change the name- which was fair enough because the original title did make me cringe a bit. Then I had to increase the word count by a mere 4,000, as well as set to work on book number two because yes, one book just isn’t enough. I’ve found it when it comes to writing, I’m like a tube of Pringles. Once I pop, I can’t stop.
Now though, it is starting to get really exciting. It is starting to feel real and I’m beginning to allow myself to believe it is really is happening. Last week I travelled to Dublin to meet the team at Poolbeg and the two PR consultants who will be working with me at the time of the launch. I felt sick to my stomach as I got the taxi out to Howth and when I arrived at the Poolbeg offices and saw that famous red lighthouse logo I almost, almost, asked the taxi man to turn back. Of course I needn’t have worried. The team are lovely and I mean that genuinely and not simply in a “I must keep in their good books” kind of way.
We discussed the book, and what press I would be willing to do come the summer. They mentioned possible TV interviews and once the smelling salts had worked, I agreed to do whatever I could to get my career up and running. Although I admit it will definitely feel a little weird to be at the receiving end of a journalist’s questions.
Most importantly I managed not to make a holy show of myself. I have a rather unfortunate habit of unwittingly adopting other people’s accents and mannerisms so I was afraid I would start saying ‘eejit’ and ‘it was gas’ in a thick Dublin brogue and they would think I was taking the proverbial. Thankfully I remained a true Derry woman from start to finish.
And then it was off to a wee cafe nearby for lunch. It wasn’t big or fancy, but the food was great and Paula Campbell, the publisher, assured me that everyone who is anyone in the Irish publishing world has had lasagne and chips from May’s cafe.
If it’s good enough for Marian Keyes, it’s sure as hell good enough for me.

The next step will be seeing the cover of my book. I’ve been told that many authors have a good cry when they see their name on a book cover for the first time- I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Tackfest Tuesday- Whyyyyyyy do you build me up?

I'm in remarkably chipper form today. It's something to do with booking a weekend away with Mr. Allan and relaxing after the boy's third birthday.
My creative juices are flowing with Signed, Sealed, Delivered and tonight I will hit the 50,000 word mark. So all in all, it's a good day.
So today's tacky song reflects that mood. Even though it is actually quite a sad sony lyrically, it always makes me grin like a buck eejit. It reminds me most of all my aunt's 50th birthday party and my own 30th...
So everybody, I give you 'Why Do You Build Me Up?'

Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby
Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around
And then worst of all (worst of all) you never call, baby
When you say you will (say you will)
but I love you still
I need you (I need you)
more than anyone, darlin'
You know that I have from the start
So build me up (build me up) Buttercup,
don't break my heart"

Friday, February 02, 2007

Month 36- All growed up

It is very difficult to express in words just how I feel about you turning three. I'm so utterly proud of you, so completely in love with you and so totally in awe of you.
You rock my world.
You'll forgive my lack of words this month, but here, for you to always see, is what life has been like for the last three years.
I love you,
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