Friday, November 23, 2007

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Thought it was about time you saw an updated picture of the boy - here he is at the Christmas lights switch on. He was so very excited.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Finding motivation

Following a blog post from Sarah Webb I've been thinking about this thing called writing.

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

Good grief, the comedian's a Joseph

Running up to a stray mum at nursery this morning. Joseph stood stock still and said
"Why did the banana go to the doctors?"
"Because he wasn't peeling well."

It's the way he tells 'em.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Now available for Pre-Order!

The mass market paperback of Rainy Days and Tuesdays - it's only £7.99!
A bargain!

Saying Goodbye to 'Lucky Dave'

Last week the world lost a true gentleman. My father-in-law, referred in this column in the past as ‘Lucky Dave’ passed away last Thursday at the ripe old age of 81.
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

Ah nuts!

I’ve probably (definitely) paranoid when it comes to my child. (And everything else for matter, now that you mention it.)
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

The good the bad and the ugly

It's fair to say I have my favourites now with SCD.

The Good

The bad

and the downright ugly

Sweetie Cigarettes and imaginary horses

A colleague and I took our mid morning dooter out to the shop beside this week and amongst the heaps of selection boxes and bargain piced tins of Quality Street (Get thee behind me Satan) we spotted a couple of packets of sweetie cigarettes.
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

Things not to watch when you have PMT

Just watch the wee girl at the end, running into her daddy's arms...

A Day in the life...

I’m a single mum this week. Mr Allan has decamped to England to spend time with his sick father so myself and the J-man have been spending some quality mother and son time.

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.

It’s now
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.

Flying without wings

And on the subject of writing, and indeed of Emma Darwin, I recently took part in an online discussion about sometimes feeling like a bit of a fraud when it comes to writing.
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"

Please and thank you are the magic words

The really very talented and very, very helpful Emma Darwin (Author of the Mathematics of Love) recently blogged about the issue of acknowledgements in books.
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'll tell you what I want... what I really, really want

Are you sick of it yet? They haven’t even released a single, or stepped on stage yet but I’m seriously wishing the Spice Girls would please, please go away.
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

Weighing it up

Fatso. Fatty. Lardy. Big boned. Ten Tonne Tessie. Horse. Cow. Pig. Greedy. Lazy. All these delightful words and phrases have been doing the rounds a lot this week as it seems the nation has developed an obession with the growing (excuse the pun) obesity crisis.
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.
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