Thursday, April 26, 2007

I've got my new shoes on...

I don't get excited about work shoes often, but these little beauties are the new love of my life.
They are retro and remind me of the shoes I used to wear back in my dancing days AND they are comfy as heck.
I've walked about all day- clip clopping and feeling like a wee girl wearing her mammy's shoes- and my feet don't ache at all.
And best of all they were only £20 in Next!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

In honour of Chris Moyles...

...and comedy Dave, I would like to declare to all and sundry


If this doesn't make sense, which it probably doesn't, then listen in to Chris's show from yesterday on his website

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Wanna pee standing up?

I have to say I quite like the genius of Google's targetted ads in your email.
But this one made me roar laughing,
Behold the ShePee

Of course I had rack my brains to figure out what I may have written in emails to warrant an ad for this product and I can only blame Keris for an exchange of emails regarding me peeing my pants with excitement at the prospect of 'Rainy Days and Tuesdays' going on sale.

I actually thinks Keris believes I suffer from light bladder weakness, but my pelvic floor is fine thanks. (Except possibly when doing aerobics, which is why I abstain!).

Anyway, if you fancy peeing into what looks like a paper cup (without spilling any on your jeans) while making that road trip then go ahead...knock yourself out.

Personally I'm a fan of Billy Connolly's patented incontinence pants. (Keep watching, it's worth it)

And just for my dear friend Mandi..

A timely reminder...

Sometimes being a journalist is hard going. Today I attended the inquest of 23 month old Caide Hamill who died when his head became trapped in the cords of the blinds in his bedroom.
I managed to keep my composure- just, because this is something that could happen to any of us. As the mother of a young toddler, I found it particularly difficult. As was said at the inquest, such an incident really would be a parent's worst nightmare.

Anyway, it reminded me to take every day with my son as a blessing and to cherish every inch of him for the perfect cheeky wee imp that he is.

I thought it was about time this old poem came out for a read too.

Just for this morning . . . . .
I am going to smile when I see your face and laugh when I feel like crying.
Just for this morning . . . . .
I will let you choose what you want to wear, and smile and say how perfect it is.
Just for this morning . . . . .
I am going to step over the laundry, and pick you up and take you to the park to play.
Just for this morning . . . . .
I will leave the dishes in the sink, and let you teach me how to put that puzzle of yours together.
Just for this afternoon . . . . .
I will unplug the telephone and keep the computer off, and sit with you in the backyard and blow bubbles.
Just for this afternoon . . . . .
I will not yell once, not even a tiny grumble when you scream and whine for the ice cream truck, and I will buy you one if he comes by.
Just for this afternoon . . . . .
I won't worry about what you are going to be when you grow up, or second guess every decision I have made where you are concerned.
Just for this afternoon . . . . .
I will let you help me bake cookies, and I won't stand over you trying to fix them.
Just for this afternoon . . . . .
I will take us to Mc Donald's and buy us both a Happy Meal so you can have both toys.
Just for this evening . . . . .
I will hold you in my arms and tell you a story about how you were born and how much I love you.
Just for this evening . . . . .
I will let you splash in the tub and not get angry.
Just for this evening . . . . .
I will let you stay up late while we sit on the porch and count all the stars.
Just for this evening . . . . .
I will snuggle beside you for hours, and miss my favorite TV shows.
Just for this evening . . . .
When I run my finger through your hair as you pray, I will simply be grateful that God has given me the greatest gift ever given. I will think about the mothers and fathers who are searching for their missing children, the mothers and fathers who are visiting their children's graves instead of their bedrooms, and mothers and fathers who are in hospital rooms watching their children suffer senselessly, and screaming inside they can't handle it anymore.
And when I kiss you goodnight I will hold you a little tighter, a little longer.
It is then, that I will thank God for you, and ask him for nothing, except one more day .............

Friday, April 20, 2007

Everybody scream!

IT’S WEDNESDAY morning and I have a sore throat. My voice has taken on a husky quality and I’m beating the paracetamol into me like there is no tomorrow.

Do I have a cold? No. Do I have some weird throat infection? No. Did I scream like a 14 year old eejit throughout two hours of a Westlife concert on Sunday night and cause some serious damage to my vocal chords? Yes.

Yes, I admit it. I’m a 30 year old woman, but on Sunday night I regressed to a teenager as I screamed, boogied and sang (badly) throughout a Westlife concert at the Odyssey Arena. The way I see it, I’m making up for lost time. I never got to go to concerts when I was a teenager. I missed the only Belfast Bros concert and by the time I persuaded my mother to pay for tickets for their next tour they had split up amid rumours of bankruptcy.

So, the closest I got to the thrill of seeing the pop idols of the day on stage was the annual trip to the Radio One Roadshow in the Guildhall Square. And Derry rarely got any of the big names. In fact the biggest pull of the Roadshows was the year Philip Schofield was the presenter. I have not so fond memories of standing in the blistering heat from 7am just to get to the front of the crowd for an up close and personal look at the handsome Mr Schofield. Watching ‘This Morning’ still gives me a certain thrill.

Now it might not be cool to admit it, but I kind of like Westlife. Their songs are very catchy and with the risk of sounding like a cradle robber (because they are all bits of wains) they are pretty darned gorgeous. (Especially that Shane one, and Nicky Byrne too.)

The first time I saw them in concert was three years ago. My son was a couple of months old, the hormones were coursing through my body and I sobbed my way through ‘Flying Without Wings’. (It was the ‘some find it in the face of their children’ line that did it). This time I was a little more composed. Until that is, they walked on stage.

I’m not sure if it is just the atmosphere of having several thousand other people screaming that makes it so contagious but I was a like a big wain. I screamed. I bought a light up heart stick thingy (“for the wain to play with”- or so I told myself) and when they sang a line - just one line- of ‘When Will I Be Famous?’ by Bros I thought I was going to faint.

It was escapism in its purest and most innocent form. It didn’t matter one jot that I am exceptionally tuneless or that I only knew half the words to most of the songs. I did not let that stop me from enjoying every moment of the night and switching off from everything else, good and bad, that is happening in the outside world. One of the nicest things about the whole experience (apart from Shane’s dashing good looks) was the fact that I simply didn’t care whether or not I was making an eejit of myself. I spend an inordinate amount of my time worried that I’m not making the right impression on people. I worry I talk too much, or too little and that whatever I say is inappropriate.

I worry about how I look, what way I stand, how my clothes hang on me. I worry about my wonky toothed smile and if my skin is behaving or has decided to have another teen style break out. This week I needed to have my picture taken twice and I worried the whole time because, much like most women, I HATE having my picture taken. I worry that if I sing I will make ears bleed. I’m so overly self conscious so much of the time that generally I find it hard to relax. Thankfully I had no such problems on Sunday night.

I relaxed - and then some. It was a far cry from my recent trip to the Forum to ‘Beauty and the Beast’. Brilliant and all as the show was, I couldn’t chill out as my five year old niece spent the show asking me questions, whispering in my ear and trying to hide at the scary bits. Similarly,my trip to the Tweenies this week lacked that certain something. Perhaps it was trying to persuade my three year old (with limited success) to join in, while dodging (again with limited success) the spokes of his illuminated Tweenie light stick thingie. (The Westlife ones were better. They were less likely to cause an injury).

Instead of joining in and singing along, I spent a decent proportion of the show nursing a wounded eye and thus trying to clap one handed. (I spent the rest of the evening singing ‘Blinded at the Tweenies’ to the tune of ‘Stranded at the Drive in’ from Grease.) I have long come to accept that my days out at concerts and the theatres will generally involve a bag of sweets and assaults by plastic toys for the next few years.

And I’m okay with that. But it’s nice to let my hair down from time to time - even if I do look like a bit of a sad old 30 year old amid a crowd of teenyboppers. I do, however, apologise to the people standing around me who would have been assaulted by my singing. It’s only because I don’t get out much.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

And this means I'm a proper writer...

Dig the cheesy author pic! Poolbeg needed pics to accompany the press releases. Anyone who knows me at all knows I HATE getting my picture taken, but thankfully working in a newspaper office there are some very talented photographers on hand to work some magic and make me laugh without doing that awful fake grin thing.
Anyway, this is my mugshot. Enjoy.... or not!

(Many thanks to Stephen Latimer for the pics)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

RTE One- Off the Rails

I'm reliably informed (by the TV listings the in Journal) that tomorrow night's 'Off the Rails' (RTE One 8.30pm) features Paula Campbell, the chief publisher at Poolbeg (aka the woman who gave me my break/ bought me Lasagne in May's Cafe).
Paula has three gorgeous kids (I've seen their pictures- it made me exceptionally very broody), all of them under the age of two.
For a woman who gets no sleep and works long hours reading books from the likes of me, I think she looks very glam anyway. At that stage of motherhood I was still confined to trackie bottoms and stained T-shirts (my Derry mammy look as Yaya called it).
Anyway, have a wee watch. Go on, ya will, ya will, ya will.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Women: Know Your Place!

Ranty Claire had gone away for a few weeks there. I was feeling much calmer generally with the world (despite the lack of chocolate), but today she is back. Let me explain. Traditionally on a Wednesday morning I have what is known as a “What the blazes am I going to write ‘Skirting the Issue’ about this week?” panic. This involves pleading with my colleagues for inspiration, emailing friends and family for ideas and mulling over the ups and downs of the last week Chez Allan. It generally also involves a a quick surf of the web to see what is making the news locally, nationally and globally.
While wandering through cyberspace this fine Wednesday morning I fell upon several very interesting debates. If I outline them here, in basic terms, perhaps you will pick up that the one recurring theme and that is we women- well, we’re a bit rubbish really, aren’t we? And if we were to listen to all the studies, social observers and so-called intellectuals churning out their opinions in the wider media then we really would know our place and scuttle back off to the kitchen where we belong. (Which is fine, if you happen to be Nigella Lawson and want to be in a kitchen.)
And it’s not just us working mothers who get it in the neck.
It seems, according to the press this week that everyone born with a uterus is a legitimate target. Single mothers? Devil incarnates. Working mothers? Worse than Hitler. Women who choose not to be mothers? Selfish freaks of nature. Women who read books by the likes of Marian Keyes? Intellectually subnormal. I’ve never really thought myself to be a staunch feminist but there are times when it all just gets a little bit much.
There just seems to be such a pronounced anti-women agenda out there at the moment which I’m finding increasingly hard to ignore. A quick glance of a certain well read news website brings up a study about lone parents. (Which to the average reactionary right-wing reader translates as ‘single mothers’.) Almost half of all children are now born out of wedlock, the article states, and many of those will live in single parent families. There is a distinct lack of comment from organisations which support lone parents such as Gingerbread, but instead reams of twaddle from experts who state that children growing up with one parent are more likely to suffer from depression, commit suicide, not do well at school and take drugs or excessive amounts of alcohol. Underlying these ‘facts’ is a message that women simply cannot parent alone. And there was me foolishly thinking the days of blaming single parents for the roots of all evil where long gone.
I was obviously wrong. Then there was the study which stated that children who spend significant amount of times in childcare, at any age, will suffer in terms of social development. (We’ll ignore the fact that school could technically be classed as childcare). The reporter responsible for the article said such findings were due to cause concern to working mothers. There was no mention of working fathers, which once again enforces the message that it is the mother’s responsibility to care for her children regardless of whether or not there is a father involved. And admittedly the majority of us women are better at rearing children (because we are better at everything, naturally!), but why should be the only people to feel guilty for working? It is enough to make the vein on my temple explode with fury. Reading on I saw that more women these days are choosing not have children. Fair play to them. I appreciate that dealing with colic, toilet training and endless snotters is not something everyone wants to do. But the ‘experts’ and the ‘commentators’ were out in force again.
It’s not natural, they said. It’s selfish, they said- but these are the same people who say Natalie Evans is selfish for not wanting the embryos she had frozen before her cancer treatment destroyed. One delightful creature even went so far to as to say that Ms. Evans appeal in the Grand Chamber of the European Court equated to her trying to ‘rape’ her ex-partner. All this has been backed up with an interesting article from Marian Keyes who won the Popular Fiction Award at the British Book Awards. Delighted as she is with her success (and rightly so), she is a little disgusted that it has been marred by a plethora of attacks in the press about the state of literature today. You see, Chick Lit as it is known can’t possible be taken seriously because it is written for women- and it has pretty covers. Never mind that it deals with some pretty serious issues. (Ms. Keyes’ own books dealing with drug abuse, cancer, depression, bereavement, infertility to name but a few). In her article she wrote: “I have nothing but contempt for those men and sometimes women (I call them collaborators) who write articles undermining what women like and enjoy, intending to unsettle women enough that they won’t ask for things. Like equal pay. And decent child-care. And money for refuges for victims of domestic violence. And an end to joke sentences for convicted rapists.” And there is the crux of the matter. So I’m very ranty and generally fed up this week because for years while I was at school I studied the feminist movement as if it were a thing of the past and I was led to believe that I was equal to anyone else. Perhaps it is about time we set about burning our bras again? (But then again, I need the support these days) or maybe we should just stop listening to the nonsense that is being peddled to us by so-called experts claiming to speak for us.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A woman's touch and the guilt factor

DEAR GRANNY, please read no further if you don’t want to disown me, because I have a very serious confession to make. I’ve organised a cleaner to keep my house in order.
Although I know it will make my life 101 times easier I am experiencing a degree of guilt over the whole shebang because my granny managed to keep her house like a new pin with 10 wains running under her feet. In theory, having only the one wain, I have no excuse. (Although in terms of mess creation my other half counts for at least three wains and, apart from washing the odd cup and the occasional wheeling of the blue bin to the pavement, does not contribute to the overall maintenance of Chez Allan).
But over the past few months the task of keeping my house looking half decent has become somewhat of a burden. It’s no secret I have dreams of having a house that would look perfect in the pages of the Next Directory, but at the the moment it bears more of a resemblance to the before shots of an episode of ‘How Clean is Your House’ with Kim and Aggie. * I can manage to keep it tidy.
On occasion I do a blitz and it looks great. We’ve just repainted the two living rooms (My preferred form of cleaning- just paint over the dirt rather than clean) and done a few other home improvements. I have even decluttered the understairs cupboard which bore more than a passing resemblance to Monica’s ‘cupboard of shame’ in ‘Friends’. The wee man’s toys have been tidied, sorted and those which he has grown out of have been shipped off to the charity shop or dump and yet my house seems to have been rebelling against my attempts to make it ship shape. It has developed a Forth Bridge mentality in that no sooner have I reached the end of my cleaning efforts that I find a film of dust on top of the TV and a suspicious juice/ milk/ water/ pee pees** type stain on the laminate flooring and I have to start all over again.
Perhaps I am copping out by hiring a cleaner. I mean, if my granny with 10 wains managed it, and my mammy with four wains managed it and almost everyone I know (with or without wains) manages it, then why can’t I? The answer, as I see it, is simple. (And no, it’s not that I’m bone lazy and would prefer to spend my free time drooling over Mike and Tom in ‘Desperate Housewives’ *** ). I work hard, and I work long hours. When I get home the last thing I want to do is throw a mop around the floors. I want to spend time with my son. I want to chat with him about his day. I want to sit down on the floor and play lorries with him. I want to read to him, brush his teeth and say his prayers and snuggle him before bed time.
And then, when that is done I want to sit down with my laptop and write without noticing a new cobweb in the light fitting, or that the hearth needs a dust. When the weekends come I want to load us all in the car and head out for the day without worrying about the pile of ironing in the Chinese laundry that my kitchen has become or about whether or not the toilet needs bleached. There are those who have said I don’t need to justify my decision, but somehow I can’t help it and I think, looking at it properly, it all comes down to that faithful friend - guilt. I feel guilty that my house isn’t perfect. But then if I make it perfect, I feel guilty that I’m not spending time with my son.
But if I spend the requisite quality time with my son AND make my house perfect, I feel guilty that I’m not writing the way I should, and that my agents/ publishers /bosses at the ‘Journal’ will cast me out of the flock and we will lose our house and have to take up residence under the bridge in a cardboard box. **** Essentially, I feel guilty a lot and I figure that the guilt at hiring a cleaner can’t possibly be as bad as the guilt of being a substandard parent. However, nothing is simple in my life and on Sunday I announced to my husband that there was “no way a cleaner is coming into this house in this state”. Suddenly every smudge and mark seemed magnified 100 fold and I set off to Tesco to stock up on cleaning products. First of all I decluttered and cleaned my cleaning cupboard. Having found and dealt with the source of the foul and mysterious odour at the back of the cupboard, I rearranged my bottles and powders neatly and then set about decluttering the rest of the kitchen. Three bin bags of clutter later, my kitchen was gleaming and now ready for inspection by a cleaning lady. I’ve been told our cleaning lady will start next week, and as I have a few days off over the Easter break, I’m sure that I’ll be able to tackle a few of the other rooms before she arrives. My husband has stood and looked on with bewilderment at my antics, but no Derry woman wants to be shamed by the state of her coving.
I’m sure, however, that I will learn to relax as the weeks pass and maybe, just maybe, the guilt will subside just that little bit.
*It’s not that bad. Honest. I’m exaggerating. If our cleaner is reading this, please don’t let it put you off.
** The pees pees are only very occasional. The wee man is almost entirely potty trained now. Best not to do a taste test though, just in case.
*** Well, again, that’s not entirely true. I do like to drool over Mike and Tom... and Ian too, while we are it. **** Which, in fairness, would be easier to clean than a three bedroomed terraced house.

Cars, damn cars and alternators

Last year I was sold a lemon in the form of a Vauxhall Corsa which (probably to the delight of the person who sold it to me) has given me nothing but trouble.
On day one of my proud car ownership, it spilled petrol all over the forecourt of the garage when I tried to fill it.
One new petrol tank and service later (and a war of words with the nasty previous owner) I was on the road.
Until the day it overheated in the McDonald's drive-thru, or the time the brakes went, or the time it leaked petrol all over my street, or the second time it leaked petrol all over my street or today- when the both the battery and handbrake light flashed on coinciding with a thunk that mad my heart sink to my boots.
Of course being the hols, there are no garages open. And I'm now contemplating getting rid of the nasty horrible Corsa and getting a newer version. Only problem is, I'm skint...and cars don't come cheap (or free for that matter- which would be more in my price range).

I may be back to taxis and buses after all.
Ach well, I could do with the exercise.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Go on ya girl ye!

Marian Keyes, this is why I love you.
After having similar discussions lately with family and associates, here is Ms. Keyes speaking for all us 'fluffy' writers everywhere.

I feel a rant coming on. Just sick – BORED, BORED, BORED – mes amies, of being attacked for being a pink fluffy writer by a load of fuckheads with a misogynistic agenda, who have never read my books or the great reviews they get. There’s been a lot of it lately and although it doesn’t upset me the way it would have 10 years ago – because I have nothing but contempt for those men and sometimes women (I call them collaborators) who write articles undermining what women like and enjoy, intending to unsettle women enough that they won’t ask for things. Like equal pay. And decent child-care. And money for refuges for victims of domestic violence. And an end to joke sentences for convicted rapists. I could go on… Right yes, like I said they don’t upset me the way it would have before I understood what they were up to, but mes amies, I’m so tremendously bored of it.
(And can I also say, because if I don’t, the fuckheads will, that I don’t expect everyone to like my books. I am simply asking for 2 things. 1) Don’t judge my books if you haven’t read them. 2) Leave women alone. We don’t try to make you feel ashamed for the things you like, like Kate Moss’s arse and expensive hifi’s. Please return the favour.)
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