Friday, October 31, 2008

Who you gonna call?

have to say Derry City Council have pulled off a blinder with this year’s Hallowe’en celebrations.
Not only do we get to enjoy the usual fireworks display (approximately 15 minutes of ‘Oohing’ and ‘Aahing’ at 30 second intervals as the sky lights up) but we also get a host of other family friendly adventures including the drive-in movie screening of ‘Ghostbusters’.
With a four year who is dressing up as Peter Venkman for the occasion he has been almost uncontrollable with excitement at the prospect of seeing his favourite movie on the big screen. (Apart from the ghost in the library, he doesn’t like her one little bit - and sadly drive-in movies have no fast forward facility).
The truth is having a four year old has made Hallowe’en (‘Ghostbusters’ or not) all the more enjoyable again. I’ve gone through different stages of loving and hating Hallowe’en.
As a child, it was a great adventure altogether. We’d haul down old curtains, discarded First Communion dresses and cover cardboard wands with tin foil to make them shine and dress up as a variety of witches, fairies and vampires. Armed with our Wellworths bags we would take to the streets of Creggan, rattling on the doors of neighbours and sing-songing “Any ‘hing fer Halloween?” over and over again until our bags were laden with mandarin oranges, apples, monkey nuts and grapes.
If you were lucky the odd lollypop, toffee apple or rice crispie bun made their way into your bag. (There was a wee woman on Broadway who made the nicest toffee apples in the world ever!).
True success on the big night was measured in two ways however. Whoever got the most hazelnuts/ brazil nuts and survived a raid by one of the gangs from the neighbouring streets was the winner. We would sit, all on the carpet, pouring out our loot and fighting over the one pair of nut crackers my mother owned. If we got really impatient we would batter the living daylights out of the poor nuts with the back of the metal poker and try and catch the nuts before they sped across the room at the speed of light to disappear under sideboard never to be seen again. (Well not until the big Christmas clean anyway).
It was all good, innocent fun. (Apart from the evil raiders who were merciless with their hijacking of hard earned monkeynuts.)
I still loved Hallowe’en into my late teens and early 20s when you just had to make it out the town. I didn’t care then that you couldn’t get into a pub unless you went at an ungodly hour or that there was no chance of a seat or getting a drink from the bar without a ten minute wait and that a taxi home was out of the question. (Now that I’m well established in my 30s all these things are very important to me. Forget a mad night’s dancing - sharing a bottle of wine in a quiet corner of a bar with friends before stumbling into a taxi is my idea of non-pregnant heaven).
I remember my feet hurting for days after from all the dancing and the eerie feeling of the morning after the night before as worn out looking Cinderellas, bumble bees and werewolves wound their way home in the early hours. But it did then reach a stage where it all seemed like too much trouble.
Sure I’d watch the fireworks from the warm and comfy vantage point of my back bedroom window but apart from that it was a case of hiding from the wains who knocked at the door (yes, I became a Halloween Grinch) and putting on a distinctly unHallowe’en-y movie.
Having a four year old (and a Peter Venkman impersonating ‘Ghostbusting’ four year old at that) has changed things again and I’m almost as excited as I get at Christmas. We hunted for his perfect costume, complete with inflatable proton pack and I’ve managed to find a small toy ghost for him to “bust” all night. I
’ve been reading ‘Room on the Broom’ (a gorgeous, gorgeous children’s book) ad nauseum and singing ‘The Witches of Halloween’ on a loop. (Thank you to Mrs McDowell at Galliagh Nursery for reintroducing that to my repertoire last year).
Tonight (if we can tackle the fear of the library ghostie) we’ll be going to the drive-in and then on to watch the fireworks. Then it will be back to my sister’s for some Hallowe’en games, probably too much chocolate and maybe one or two hazelnuts smashed with the back of a poker.
There will be dancing to the “Monster Mash” and maybe a spot of ‘Trick or Treating’ (although I still prefer the old war cry of ‘Any ‘hing fer Halloween?’). There might not be drunken queues at the bar or the walk of shame home in the early hours but it will still be magical all the same.
If I thought there was a ghost’s chance in hell of it still fitting I would slip on my wedding dress and cover some cardboard in tinfoil to make a wand. So whatever you’re doing tonight - enjoy the party and let’s show everyone how Derry still does Hallowe’en best - be it with an old curtain, a drive-in movie or a fireworks display.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Picture perfect

I just read this gorgeous post about the importance of taking pictures.

Pictures are big deal in our house too with my grandad and my father both being snap happy. Recently my lovely daddy scanned in more than 3000 old family images (from the pre-digital age) and gave them to us all as a present on a disk.

I laughed, and cried, at the memories but they are all so, so precious.

Pictured in this post, as an example of how precious these memories can be is me (the ickle tiny baby in the shawl) on my christening day, my big sister, my beloved, late, grandad and my beloved granny when she was in better health.

You really cannot buy such memories.

I've not been ignoring your comments...

They've been mysteriously filtered to my spam doodah so I thought you'd all just stopped caring.
All comments much appreciated and I hope I have the darn glitch fixed now.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

News, reviews and having the blues...

...AS someone famous once said.

Every now and again I pop on Amazon and have a look at how my babies (aka my books) are doing. Now part of being a writer is that you take the rough with the smooth.
You realise that not everyone is going to gush over your book the way you yourself would. I certainly now, in hindsight, can look at Rainy Days and Tuesdays and feel that bits certainly could have been written better. But, that was the story that was in me at the time (a shocking three years ago now!).
Some times I'll take a review on the chin. Some times I'll shake my head in disbelief. Some of the corkers I've received are that "it reads too like an autobiography". Now if this person knew my life intimately they would know it's NOT ABOUT ME. If they don't then how on earth could they say it read like an autobiography? It is one woman's life - it is supposed to be one woman's story.
Another review, which has come up several times recently, is that mum lit has had it's day. Well I disagree but regardless RD&T was written 3 years ago. It was of the moment three years ago. It was published a year and a half ago, when it was still of its time- the charts were filled with mum lit and still are.
The third gripe thrown at me is that the book is "too expensive for Amazon". Amazon do not sell books in the format some low cost airlines sell flights. The price is there from the outset. It's no surprise. It is also not set by me, or determined by me on any level. May I suggest if someone does not like the price of a book then simply do not read it.
Of course I've had more good reviews than bad (funny being a writer we don't tend to focus on the good...) but when the reviews are sometimes a little weird you can't help but get the urge to GRRRRR back at the reviewer.

I'd rather not pass judgement...

But when a 16 year old's father spends £100,000 on her wedding, including £16,000 on a dress that wouldn't look out of place in a Las Vegas Burlesque show, you can't help but think there is something very, very wrong with the world.
It's not only that I think 16 is too young to make a lifetime's commitment to someone (I married at 24 and even now look back at and think I was a bit of a wain), it's also that £100,000 is just an obscene amount of money to spend on a wedding - regardless of background or beliefs.

Dignity at all times

Just in case you have been living in a rock for the last week or so and hadn’t heard, let me be the first to tell you Madonna and her husband, film director Guy Ritchie have split.
The couple, who initially appealed for privacy to help them get through this difficult time, have spent the last week tearing shreds off each other as they battle for the best headlines and public sympathy in a divorce battle that will no doubt make Heather Mills and Paul McCartney look like an episode of the Tweenies.
Apparantly (according to “friends close to the couple”) Ritchie was a money grabber who spent Madge’s money like it was going out of fashion. While she was and is an self obsessed harpy more interested in sculpting her body into a lean, mean muscly machine than spending time sculpting her marriage into a happy and successful relationship. (The woman works out for four or five hours a day.
How is that even possible without dying of exhaustion?) And then, of course, there is the issue of the children. Madonna has a daughter, Lourdes, who is said not to like Ritchie, and they have a son together, Rocco who does (funnily enough) like Ritchie while there is also a wee adopted toddler David who probably doesn’t know his nappy from his elbow at the moment.
Apparantly (again according to “friends close to the couple”) Madonna wanted to adopt more, while Ritchie was happy enough with the brood they had - especially given the fact the pair both have punishing work schedules. This caused terrible strife among the pair which was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Now the whole sorry scenario is playing out like a soap opera and much as I would like to say I’m retaining a dignified distance from the gossip columns, I just can’t stay away. I admit I, like the majority of people, do enjoy a bit of scandal. (Especially given the fact my own life is so sedate at the moment).
I do however, salacious gossip aside, wish they would keep it to themselves. I can’t help but feel it’s not right to be so openly nasty about each other. Sure they obviously have certain gripes with each other to split in the first place but whatever happened to retaining an ounce of dignity - if not for their own selves but for the sake of the children?
In my opinion and experience it never ends well to air your dirty linen in public - not least for the children who years from now will look back and see the plethora of insults thrown between mammy and daddy while trying to convince themselves there must have been some love shared between the two in the first place.
I’m really sure that Rocco will not want to read in future years that his mother was a horrible woman to live with who was so muscly she turned his daddy off in bed. Nor will David want to know that some “friend close to the couple” are blaming his adoption for their split. It’s hateful to think what these children are growing up with - even though their lives were unlikely to ever be normal anyway.
Couples who split - celebrities or not - should try their damndest to keep their cool and not let their lives become a soap opera for the general masses. Splitting up is, I imagine, hard enough without having to consult your PR spokesperson first. Splitting up should be a matter of doing what is best for all parties without launching a public attack on the the person you once pledged ‘Til death do us part’ to.
Regardless of their (alleged) wrongdoings - listing their grievances in public is never going to win you an army of fans. Already the public is turning against Madonna and already, just one week into this latest celebrity scandal, people are growing weary of their in-fighting. Madonna is being accused of putting her PR machine into gear - casting aspersions on the couple’s entire relationship, while Ritchie is said to have held a counsel of war in his (their) mansion to come up with ways to tackle the onslaught. Friends, previously loyal, are falling over themselves to spill the dirt and the public - while still reading (of course) are becoming uncomfortable with just how nasty it has become so quickly.
So even though Madonna is unlikely to be one bit bothered by what one reporter in Derry is saying about her, I’m hoping she catches herself on soon and waves the white flag. For the sake of her children, if nothing else.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Saying our final goodbyes..

Along with having our scan in England at the weekend, we travelled over to say goodbye finally to my father in law "Lucky Dave".
David died a year ago, at the ripe old age of 81, surrounded by his family. It has taken this long to arrange for us all to get together again to scatter his ashes. So on Saturday we (being me, husband and the boy, two sisters in law and their husbands, a niece, two nephews and two police dogs) traipsed into a muddy field in Cheshire to scatter his ashes in a place dear to his heart.
It is close to where he used to live, and where hubby grew up, and also the same spot where my mother in law's ashes were scattered just before I met my husband.
I'd not been there before but it really was a gorgeous place - rain and muck included. With wellies on, and me trying to balance my wibbly wobbly almost five month gone tummy, we trekked through the field. It was hard to get maudlin with Joseoph whooping with laughter at the dogs and asking if we were in heaven (Because you know, Grandpa is in heaven).
We all took turns to scatter a little bit of his ashes - even Joseph gave it a turn - and there was nothing sad or solemn. It was a family walk, with lots of laughter, lots of memories and plenty of cow pats.
Obviously the passing of nearly a year made it easier to take, but I couldn't help but feel it was at least all that bit more peaceful and gentle a goodbye than the harshness of a funeral on a winter's day.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Introducing, my baby girl...

Well they are as convinced as they can be that Bam Bam is infact a lovely little lady in waiting.
While I would have been delighted with a boy, it means things are getting even in the Allan household and even better, Joseph can remain, forever, my best boy.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

RIP Pat Kavanagh

The name Pat Kavanagh may not mean much to those outside the literary world but she was a big player.
For many years an agent at PFD she represented the likes of Joanna Trollope and Ruth Rendell.
She has died, aged 68, after battling a brain tumour.
My personal connection to Pat is pretty minimal. She was the first person to reject my work - back in 2006. She, a big player in a huge firm, sent a gorgeous two page letter praising my writing, wishing me well and ultimately saying she didn't do chick lit - but in a nice, non-patronising way.
She was a lady.
Anyway, I feel a little sad today to hear of her passing and I just wanted to mark it some little way.

Monday, October 20, 2008

That reality TV feeling

Are you addicted yet? Have Saturday nights become a complete TV fest - from the sparkles and sequins of Strictly Come Dancing to the bright lights and bad hair of X-Factor?
I know that every year I say I won’t get caught up in the hype and yet every year I do and now, as the weekend approaches, I get a little excited at the thought of my Saturday night in front of the telly. (Which isn’t as sad as it sounds, honest, being almost five months pregnant - a girl is allowed a few indulgences.)
In fairness ‘Strictly’ has a special place in my heart. Having taken dance lessons a few years back I watch it wistfully with an air of “I coulda been a contender” in my heart. Of course my dance teachers at the time might well disagree with that but what woman doesn’t watch the likes of Erin Boag and Lilia Kopylova and not feel that pang of jealously?
There are the sparkly dresses, the chiffon, the delicate gold ballroom shoes and the hair adorned with sparkling chips and glittery hairspray. Not to mention these ladies have legs which go one for miles and tummies without a single stretch mark (stark contrast to my current roadmap status).
Yes, we may be grown up, but nothing sets a woman’s heart racing more than a bit of glitz and glamour (and the sight of Vincent Simone shaking his hips in a delicious salsa). ‘Strictly’ is my guilty pleasure. Yes sometimes the boy will look to watch it with me, but most of the time he can be persuaded into another room and I’ll lose myself in the dances and make suitably impressed or disgusted noises at the judges’ observations.
By the time it’s over, I always convince myself that once I’m fit and able, I’ll get back to those dance classes and I spend the evening daydreaming of my once around the floor with one of the hunky professionals.
Then of course, it’s time for the X-factor and this is where the real family entertainment bit comes into play. The boy arrives in to dance to the theme tune and stand hands crossed declaring he has the X-factor while my husband takes to his favourite chair to do his best grumpy Simon Cowell impression throughout.
For a man who has not a note in his head (and as an equally tuneless person, I should know) I’m constantly amazed at how he turns into a musical expert each and every Saturday night. But then I suppose part of the fun of X-factor is that we all take our place on the judging panel - passing comment on everything from the singing to the clothes to the hairstyles. (For the record, contestants could you please brush your hair tomorrow night? I don’t care if the ‘bedhead’ look is in at the moment - I want some personal grooming, thank you.)
This year we do have a local interest in the form of Eoghan Quigg - who is apparantly 16 but doesn’t look a day over 12. I have to say I watched the show last week from behind a cushion. There are some amazing singers this year - with Alexandra and Laura to name but two giving outstanding performances. How on earth would or could the wee lad from Dungiven match up? I almost, almost didn’t want to watch and when the band started up with the opening notes of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ I really didn’t want to watch. But he did good - he even made me cry (which in fairness due to the hormones, isn’t that difficult. I cry at advertisements at the moment.)
The husband, not being from Derry, made “Hmmm, that was okay” noises, and sheer loyalty to a local lad had us all phoning to vote for him anyway. But what is it that makes these programmes so appealing? Sure it’s good clean entertainment and that always helps when it comes to me deciding our family viewing - but there is more to the appeal of these shows than just that. Maybe it is because they are showing us people achieving their dreams, pushing themselves a wee bit harder and working to get to the end of the series.
Perhaps it is the fear of them falling flat on their face (literally as the case may be in ‘Strictly Come Dancing’) that keeps us tuning in. I’d like to think the biggest part of the attraction for me is knowing that they are going out there, live on stage and doing their best. That takes a certain amount of guts - putting yourself up for public praise or public criticism takes a lot of guts. Knowing that to achieve your goal you have to put yourself in the eye of the media storm and take whatever comes at you isn’t easy.
Be it one false turn on the dance floor, one dud note in a power ballad - these contestants can have their fortunes turn in a heartbeat. And that, to me, makes great viewing. So roll on tomorrow night - I’ll be there in front of the telly, cheering them all on.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

So I got that wrong...

Apparantly I was to answer in just one word...

1. Where is your cell phone? Desk

2. Where is your significant other? Car

3. Your hair color? Brown-ish

4. Your mother? Karen

5. Your father? Peter

6. Your favorite thing? Joseph

7. Your dream last night? Weird

8. Your dream/goal? Happiness

9. The room you're in? Depressing

10. Your hobby? Writing

11. Your fear? Depression

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Happier

13. Where were you last night? Bed

14. What you're not? Jolly

15. One of your wish-list items? Pram

16. Where you grew up? incomplete

17. The last thing you did? lunch

18. What are you wearing? Clothes

19. Your TV? Off

20. Your pets? None

21. Your computer? off

22. Your mood? Meh

23. Missing someone? Lots

24. Your car? Skip

25. Something you're not wearing? Smile

26. Favorite store? Next

27. Your summer? Over

28. Love someone? Family

29. Your favorite color? Blue

30. When is the last time you laughed? Morning

31. Last time you cried? yesterday

And the award for "Fionnuala likes to read this" goes to....

Thanks to Fionnuala, I've got a wee award to share - isn't it lovely.
I particularly like the penmanship.

Anyway, all thanks to my readers, Blogger, my parents, my agents, my children (born and unborn) and the special tablets the doctor gave me to stop me puking.

A condition of said award is that is that I have to answer the following meme so here goes...

1. Where is your cell phone? On my desk beside me... it's cracked.. a bit like me (For non Irish readers that means slightly mad, not off my head on drugs...)

2. Where is your significant other? Half way to Antrim for work, I think.

3. Your hair color? Chestnut brown, with greyish roots. Need a date with Clairol.

4. Your mother? Is 52 today! Yay mammy, I love her.

5. Your father? Is at work, after making the kiddies laugh by chasing the car this morning.

6. Your favorite thing? Joseph.

7. Your dream last night? There were many and they were weird - from being carjacked to being able to hold the unborn baby's hand through my tummy.

8. Your dream/goal? Not to get the evil PND this time round.

9. The room you're in? Work, office, noisy, artificial light, kind of cold.

10. Your hobby? Writing. Although when DH calls it a hobby I want to kill him.

11. Your fear? The evil PND next time around.

12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Happier, more successful, content.

13. Where were you last night? At home, asleep from 8pm with the boy. I was vay tired.

14. What you're not? Content or confident.

15. One of your wish-list items? All baby related at present.

16. Where you grew up? That is still a work in progress.

17. The last thing you did?Answer the last question.

18. What are you wearing? Black maternity trousers, turquoisey top, look of concentration

19. Your TV? At home, without me.

20. Your pets? None

21. Your computer? My nice (non work) computer is also at home. This is a work one and it is very busy.

22. Your mood? Meh

23. Missing someone? Always

24. Your car? In the car park - a 2005 Suzuki Liana

25. Something you're not wearing? Pants (not really, of course I am.. but it seemed like a funny answer)

26. Favorite store? Next

27. Your summer? Is all done.

28. Love someone? Yes, several, in different ways.

29. Your favorite color? Joseph says it has to be Blue... like his favourite colour.

30. When is the last time you laughed? This morning at the crazy boy

31. Last time you cried? Last night - it was a sicky bad night

I've to pass it on, but I think everyone else I *heart* already has it, so I'll get back to you.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sharon Owens giveaway!

I just I thought I'd share this lovely little bit of info on my dear friend Sharon Owens who is just working on her sixth novel, 'The Seven Secrets of Happiness'.
Sharon writes beautifully quirky and dry witted stories about lovely people and her books are perfect winter warmers. 'Seven Secrets' sounds just as lovely - telling the story of widow Ruby O'Neill who puts her life back together after the death of her husband.
To generate a little buzz about the book (as if she needs it!) Sharon has commissioned some gorgeous handmade velvet bags to give away - one a month - to readers. If you want to read more, or fancy a chance at winning, then visit her website at

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Random conversations with the boy

So I'm at work and I phone home - more to check that his daddy has actually remembered to pick him from his aunts more than anything.
"Hello buddy."
"Hello Mummy. I'm on the computer, on Cbeebies. Brum is on."
"Great Joseph, sure you can tell me all about it when I get home."
"No mummy, hang on. I'll just put you on speaker phone."

Speaker phone??? He's four!

Sorry if it's gone a bit quiet...

I'm rewriting furiously, first time writing less furiously, promoting a little, sleeping a LOT. (Honestly, I go to bed at the same time as the boy these days), feeling sick a fair bit (don't so much today but we'll not curse it by talking about it), working a great deal, trying to be a mammy, grow another human being, keep home and hearth together, not murder my husband or lose the will to live myself, hunting for the perfect maternity wear, trying to get the nursery sorted and trying to plan for Christmas.

Many times in the last 2 years, since my writing career began, people have looked at me with a little sense of wonder (or maybe it is sympathy) and asked how I find the time to find everything in. The shocking truth is that these days, I don't.
My house, well it's a mess. Last week in a fit of pique I tried to persuade the husband to buy a new one so I didn't actually have to clean the existing homestead (Yes, I know, madness... but I'm hormonal). My child lives on potato waffles (or wobbles as he calls them) and I live on toast and water with occasional jacket potatoes.
So blogging, much as I love it, has dropped off the radar a bit. I promise I'll try to do better.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Credit crunch it...

Anyone else fed up of hearing about it?
Seriously, I know it's bad and I'm not being flippant but please everyone SHUT UP ALREADY.
With a husban who works in financial services and a baby on the way I don't need the stress.
I may stop reading the news - which is bad news for a journalist but seriously, feck up. It's depressing.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Yes, Keris, I've nicked your MeMe

Because I'm fresh out of creativity.. this is courtesy of Keris

Foundation: Something from Boots, number 7. I think it's a moisturising one and in a very light shade as I am almost translucent and not in a lovely Kiera Knightly way, more in a Morticia Adams kind of a way.

Mascara: One of the benefits of working in a newspaper office is that we sometimes get free samples and as I as deal with the lovely ladies from Clarins, I get some Clarins doodahs now again. So my mascara dejour is whatever Clarins ones they've sent me. (Apart from the purple one). I don't wear it every day because I do have incredibly long lashes and would look like a hooker.

Day Cream: It's from Clarins (but not a freebie) and it's in a green bottle. Multi hydrafying something or other. My sister recommended it and I bought it. It's very light and lovely.

Essential Beauty Product: Clarins (sense a theme?) although also paid for, Peach Water essential cleanser. It's the only thing that suits my skin.

Favourite Makeup Product: Eye shadow, especially glittery stuff from Urban Decay. They also do a wee eyeliner doodah which is almost entirely glitter and I love it more than life. However I rarely get the chance to wear it.

Perfume: I am insanely in love with Alien by Thierry Mugler which is an acquired taste and doesn't suit everyone but every time I wear it, I get complimented. I'm also quite traditional and love Chanel No. 5 which I bought on my honeymoon and Organza which I wore on my wedding day. The lovely Sharon Owens bought me Gucci by Gucci and it's my proper grown up, nice night out perfume.

Nails: Are mildly better since being pregnant. Still they break a lot. I used to always have them polished but now I rarely do.

Hands: Keris' answer was Every now and then I think I need to look after my hands and I buy some hand cream, apply it every night for - ooh - two or three nights and then it lingers on my dressing table until, months later, I throw it away. Mine is remarkably similar, although I do keep a bottle of Sanctuary hand cream on my desk in work (and assorted Clarins freebies).

Feet: I have two. They stay hidden except for summer when I'll buff them and put on some nail polish.

Three Products to bring on a deserted island: Deoderant (or however it is spelled), toothpaste and face cream.

Women I admire for their beauty: Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn and Doris Day.

Women with the Best Sense of Style: I think in the next life I'd like to be Jennifer Aniston, thank you very much.

My Ultimate Dream: To one day think "You'll do" when I look in the mirror and mean it.

How Do I Define Womanhood: Compassion, empathy, warmth and resilience.

Favourite Fashion Publication: The Next Directory is as far as it goes here.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

The little things...

I've been feeling pretty rubbish lately and it has affected how I've been dealing with the world, but tonight my wee man cuddled up to me and asked if I loved him most in the whole wide world.

Of course I do and he sighed and gave me a kiss and a cuddle. And then he slipped his hand in mind and I thought how precious it is to have a child's hand to hold. The gorgeous, pudgyness - the softness of his skin and the trust that hand hold entails.

I'm a very lucky mummy.
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