Friday, December 31, 2010

Out with the old

Happy new year, and lots of love to all.

I wish I could write something witty and inspiring here but sadly this New Year's Eve  is quite sedate.
It's not like the time I wore one brown boot and one black boot to work - by mistake, but which I told everyone was to herald the start of the new year while saying goodbye to the old one.

It's been a tough year, but you've been lovely.

Let's just hope for continued loveliness in 2011.
That'll do me just fine.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some me time

So Christmas was pretty much a grot fest. It started late on the night before Christmas Eve when my eye got a little twitchy. I woke on Christmas Eve with two swollen eyes, which were bright red and stuck together (sexy, non?). A venture to the pharmacist diagnosed bacterial conjunctivitis and drops were given.
By night time I was coughing and spluttering and aching. As was hubby. As was the baby.  We even had a full change of the bed cos of the boking (baby) incident just around the time santa was trying to arrive.
Christmas morning we woke, snotty, sore and wheezy and thankfully, even though three quarters of us were ill, it was still a delight to see the kids faces as they saw what Santa had brought.
The rest of the day was, however, pretty much a write off. Joseph had dinner and games at granny's house while the three of  us who were sick lay about in a heap and didn't even manage dinner. I burst into tears on a regular basis because my six year old was not with me and he should have been with me. It was a sorry, sorry day in the Allan household.

Boxing Day was much of the same except my cold was now turning into a proper chest infection.

The day after saw me on my second dose of antibiotics (the ones for my eyes now ones for my chest) and thnakfully today, despite a lead weight feeling on my chest, I feel as if I'm on the mend.

So I decided to have A Bath. I used capitals to indicate it was an event not just a mere washing myself type activity. I gathered the essentials
  • A glass of wine
  • A good book (The Truth Will Out by Anna McPartlin)
  • Christmas smelly presents - aka some Soap and Glory body scrub, face mask and some Neal's Yard lavender bubble bath
  • Candles
  • Fluffy towels and clean jammies
I should, perhaps, describe my bathroom to you. It is the size of a postage stamp. Our bath is approximately 3 foot long (okay a little more, but only a little). We have two children therefore any available bathroom space is not filled with pretty jars and scented candles but empty Matey Bottles (brilliant bathtime toys), baby shampoo, a sparkly wand, several rubber duckies and a host of detangling products for the girl's wavy hair (which she gets from her mum).

Making it a sanctuary is not easy. First I had to clear the floor of Luke Skywalker, Buzz Lightyear and Mermaid Matey - not to mention 'froggy', "horsey' and 'ducky' - none of whom I wanted to see me in the nip.
Then I had to clear the windowsill of big teeth, little teeth, and not even really there teeth toothpaste and a host of bobbles. clips and dummies discarded at bathtimes past.
Our bathroom is kind of strange in that on one wall - at the hall, we have three windows up high (no one can see in, perish the thought) so I was able to eventually light five tealights and switch off the big bathroom light and have the whole room lit in an ambient manner by the light from the hall and the candles.

Then I took a shower. Annie in It's Got to be Be Perfect gets that from me you know - not being able to lie in dead skin soup... so I showered, buffed and conditioned and then got out and stood shivering in a too small towel while the bath filled with Neal's Yard Lavender doodah.

Then I climbed in. Remarkably there was enough water. I had worried given than I am not a taker of baths and when I fill them it is usually for the pleasure of very small people who may drown in four inches of water. I lay back, trying not  to look down at the spare tyres before me, and I sipped my wine and read some of the book (love it) and felt almost human.

Until the boy burst in, needing a pee, declaring I looked very comfy in there indeed.

We need two bathrooms people. Stat.

The wine was good though. The steam has helped my chest so much and the wine has eased my mood a little and today feels like a holiday. Which means I'll probably be back in work tomorrow, but not before I've read more of the book, drank more of the wine and let my body relax a little more.

Happy me time, everyone.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

My name is...

Prompt: New name. Let's meet again, for the first time. If you could introduce yourself to strangers by another name for just one day, what would it be and why?

Oh I've thought about this a lot - especially as I get to make up names a lot. Choosing names for my characters is something I both love and hate. I love it as I have a limited number of children (happily) and there are names I would have liked to use for them which I couldn't/ wasn't allowed to which I have used in my books. (Grace, being one, which is my favourite ever girls name but hubby hates it. I also love Lily - but Lily Allan has so been done...). Anyway, as I choose each name and get to form a character I kind of fall in love with the names and the people they represent. Grace was a neurotic depressive with a heart of gold -a bit like me I think. I'd love to be a Grace - but given my absolute lack of that quality it would be perhaps a little odd.
The strange thing with choosing names for my characters is that, at times, I have chosen names I wouldn't have thought I really liked before then.
Maggie just kind of grew on me. As did Annie.

Me? I'd personally like to be something a little more exotic. My choice would come down to either Talullah Fluffinstuff - which I appreciate is a bit porn star but people would remember it, wouldn't they?
My second choice would be Lola - because it's lovely, and different and quirky and part of me not so secretly wishes we'd called our daugher Lola because she would so suit it. But it would be wrong to change a 21 month old's name by deed poll, wouldn't it?

So hello, pleased to meet you, I'm Lola Fluffinstuff.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Here we are... Christmas

Or near enough.
The tree is up. The snow has fallen and is continuing to fall. The boy performed in his nativity today and I sat like an over emotional mammy. There is something about children singing 'Away in a Manger' which gets me right in the pit of my stomach.
The presents are bought. The cards are written. I'm ashamed to say they're not posted yet... but I'll do that tomorrow. Nothing is wrapped. I have been uber organised and ordered a turkey from a proper butchers and everything though - even though we are supposed to be having Christmas at my mum's house. (hubby wants our own leftovers!).
The logistical nightmare of the Santa run on Christmas Eve is starting to give me the heebies - especially if this snow and ice continue.
I have already eaten too many Celebrations and drank too much wine.
The book? Well no, it isn't finished yet. It's getting there - I just need to find the time.

But I also need to find the time to breath, relax and just be me for a bit. Not me the mammy. Not me the journalist. Not me the wife, or daughter, or sister, or friend. Not me the writer. Not me the blogger. Just me. If I can remember who she is.
That will be my Christmas gift to myself.

And to all those who have read, posted, commented, emailed, bought books, borrowed books, trekked to signings, listened in to interviews, read columns or stopped me in the street - God bless and a very, merry Christmas to you. I hope, during this festive season, you get some time with the real you as well.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Five minutes

Prompt:  Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.

I love this one because it makes me focus on the very positive and not the negative, which is my usual tack given that I am definitely a glass half empty type of person.
So what would I want to grasp onto for 2010...

My baby's first birthday. We had the day together. It was gloriously sunny and we went for a long walk, her chattering and babbling in her pram as I stopped off to buy her a present and then take her for a photoshoot where she performed like a pro, cooing and smiling for the camera. I of course was convinced (still am) she is the most beautiful baby in the entire universe and my heart swelled with pride as she made it all look effortless.

I suppose a lot of my "must keep" memories are tied up with Cara. Being so young, this has been a year of firsts. Her first steps, her first words, the first time I put her hair in pigtails, the pair of red patent shoes she wore so proudly, her obsession with her "bellies" (wellies), her giggles, her declaration that "Joe's funny" over and over again as she plays with her big brother.

Most memorable of all perhaps is the snow which fell just two weeks ago. The two children went out to play and their faces lit up like Christmas trees, full of wonder and excitement as big, fat flakes fell softly to the ground. It amazed me that their hands never seemed to get too cold - they would have stayed out there all day if I'd not been afraid of hypothermia setting in. That day, those moments, were perfection.

It's hard to quantify other moments - perhaps it was searching through rock pools with Joseph in the early summer or taking him to the Giant's Causeway and watching his face look on with wonder. Our trip to the Ulster Museum where we saw a "real life mummy" was another highlight - the boy still talks about it.

But so many of the memories I want to keep are the hugs, the softness of my children's skin, the way they smile, their babyish voices, their innocence.
It's not the Norwegian book deal, or the resigning with Poolbeg, or Jumping in Puddles entering the top ten, or indeed Feels Like Maybe reentering the top ten - it is those precious, intangible, private moments when I feel like a good mammy. I wouldn't swap those for the world.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A little bit of magic

This was a big part of my Christmas when I was growing up, stay tuned for the singing and listen to the words. Still are important today as they were then.

Friday, December 10, 2010


December 10th Prompt: Wisdom. What was the wisest decision you made this year, and how did it play out?

Decisions are not my strong point. I am, by very nature, a very indecisive person. I once loaded my online shopping basket, paid for an order and cancelled the same order before reordering three times in a 24 hour period.
I have been known to wake in a cold sweat about what the children will wear that day - and they don't have that many clothes and generally the boy wears a uniform of the school or six-year-old-boy-with-a-football-obsession variety.
I panic about what shampoo to buy. I rewrite the same chapters of books over and over again. I take weak when chosing what book to read next. The only thing I have confidence in is walking to the same fridge in the off licence and choosing the same lovely bottle of Pinot Grigio on a Friday night.

So when it comes to widom and decisiveness... I'm not so crash hot.

I will say that the last few months/ weeks have been an eye opening experience for me. I have made some decisions which will hopefully make my life better - to keep writing will be a key one.

But the biggest decision I have made is to be there more for my children - to stop and appreciate them while they are still small. To sit on the floor and "pay bocks" (play with the blocks) with the baby and to act the eejit whenever I feel it will make them laugh. The decision to build a snowman with my son and to have a snowball fight and not care that we will end up soaked and cold. The decision to read the same book 100 times to my daughter rather than shoo her away. The decision to go for a walk and stop to look at the trees and the birds and encourage my children to do the same. The decision to be a better - not perfect - mammy. The decision to tell them I love them 100 times a day because even that is not enough. The decision to make Christmas seem even more magical than it is.
Each day I try and make small decisions, choices even, to make them realise they come first and that every day I love them more.

I think that's a good start.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Community Spirit

A reverb10 prompt

December 7th. Community. Where have you discovered community, online or otherwise, in 2010? What community would you like to join, create or more deeply connect with in 2011?

Ah, perhaps not strictly this year because this has been an ongoing thing and I know, dear reader, I'm going to sound a bit "lovey-ish" here but this year the strength of my fellow writers has kept me afloat, made me laugh, made me cry and made me keep going.
There are those I have met in real life - notably my fellow Northern Girls, Fiona Cassidy, Emma Heatherington and also Sharon Owens and Anne Dunlop who are on hand by phone or email as often as I need them to be. The emails can be one line corkers which lift me out of the doldrums or beautifully written epistles about their lives. Only Sharon Owens can make a walk to Marks and Spencer sound like a thing of wonderment!
There has been a genuine affection, understanding and support in those emails which has been vital. Writing is, by its nature, solitary and much as my family may try and understand the ups and downs of the book industry there is a point in every conversation when there is a glazing over of their eyes and pointed change in the conversation.
In finding a wee family in the writing community I have found out more about myself and been allowed to express myself as fully as I want. As an extension of same those readers (I cannot bring myself to use the word 'fans') who have contacted me on Facebook or through this blog have been amazing. Everyone likes a little ego stroking - and I'm no exception - so thank you. You have made me feel part of something bigger than just me (and given the size of me, that's an achievement).

Monday, December 06, 2010

Crafty - not me!

I picked up on an email prompt thingy while reading my sister's blog today - and while I know what I'm like and there is no way I imagine it will provide good food for thought when I am completely stuck.
Today's prompt was:

What was the last thing you made? What materials did you use? Is there something you want to make, but you need to clear some time for it?

Now the truth is, I don't make anything. I write books and I work and I keep house but I am not crafty.

Not even one bit.

I'd love to be. I'd love to have a sewing kit and an art drawer and be half way through baking my homemade Christmas cakes and cookies to handwrap in cellophane for presents but the truth is, I'm not crafty at all. I lack the skill and imagination and, indeed the dexterity to make anything I would allow out of the house and offer to other people.

I occasionally make cookies. This is a major project for me. I feel very proud of myself but while they smell nice while cooking they tend to taste like burnt rubber in the eating.

I don't sew - I am still traumatised from sewing in Home Economics in school and if my child were to come home looking for a costume to be made for a school show I would be on Ebay before you could say "next day delivery".

As for Art- I scraped a C in GCSE and we'll not mention the day the teacher actually laughed at my efforts. Cara appreciates them though. She makes me draw her an apple at least 14 times a day on a magnadoodle and she recognises it without me having to explain to her what it is.

So, to the question what have I made recently? Nadda. Bar a mess. And it's not really likely to change.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Sharing a little festive magic

December reminds me of many things, not least the annual visit to Santa.
There were no super fancy grottos in our day - I remember if you were lucky there was a bit of tinsel and a man in a red suit.
Sometimes the man in the red suit was scary - bizarrely as a child I don't think I ever really noticed just how scary.
But as an adult I can look back on the following picture and wonder how I was not scarred for life by the experience.
I would draw your attention notable to the cigarette in his right hand as he smiles through his melty plastic face at the camera with a vague Freddie Kreuger look about him.
Ladies and gentlement I give you a very Derry Christmas.

That's my sister, my brother (looking king of scared) me and the freaky Santa circa 1982?

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I think I want to buy a slanket

... And be the kind of writer who sits on her sofa wrapped in blankety goodness each evening writing.
Especially in this kind of godawful nice-to-look-at-but-shite-to-be-out-in weather.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

Yesterday was Cara's first real snow. I say her first real snow because last year she was too eeny to really make much sense of it. Yesterday however the verdict was in. Snow is good. She loves it almost as much as her brother.
Snowed in and "forced" to spend the day playing on the floor with my kids and watching cheesy movies, I had one of those "Would it be great if it was like this all the time?" moments.

Fleeting as it was it put everything into perspective even if just for a short time.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Random Conversations With the Boy.. Cont.

Devastating news here this morning folks. The boy's rock band (made up of him, his wee friend Dylan and his wee cousin Ethan (who is two)) Rock Bros have disbanded. In fairness as Dylan lives in Scotland I don't think he ever knew he was in Rock Bros in the first places...

But this morning in the car, the boy announces. "Me and friends in school are forming a band. I'm not in Rock Bros anymore.Our new band is calling Rock Lightning."
Me: "And what songs are you going to sing? Bon Jovi? Aerosmith?"
Him: "The songs from our Chirstmas show. We're very good".

Prepare for a rocking version of 'Little Donkey' then folks....

Have a rock and roll Christmas.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Random conversations with the boy

His letter to Santa .... umprompted by anyone... started with..

Dear Santa,
I know this year has been a bit of a curvy line....

At least he's honest.

She's hot and she's cold

The last week has been even stranger than the week before. On Sunday, while wandering through Prestwick airport I came to the conclusion that I was never going to write again - apart from blog updates and Facebook statuses. And of course journalisty things because, obviously, they pay me to do that. And Christmas cards and signing the boy's homework. But when it came to my novelisty ambitions I decided, very firmly, that I was done. I made peace with it, if the truth be told.
It has felt like hardwork lately and if the truth be told once again, it hasn't been working particularly well. I've not felt in the zone since about August - and even then it was a brief visit.  So I decided it would become one of those things that I once did but didn't any more and I could always tell my children and grandchildren that "I wrote a book, or four, once, so I did. I wasn't always a doddery old dear."
In making that decision it was as if a switch flicked on (or off) and I felt lighter than I had done in a very long time. That wasn't just because I was flying at an altitude of 15,000 feet either. (Ryanair, there's a joy...).

But then, as if by magic, something remarkable happened. As I went to bed that night the ending of book five became all to apparant to me and I felt excited by it - more excited than I had done in quite some time. Certainly more excited than during the last two and a half months when I battered out a measly 10,000 words
I got up on Monday and wrote. And then on Tuesday  I wrote again. I was lying, prone in bed with a fever and a cold, and I had to write - 2000 + words spewing onto the screen. And they were good words - words I felt the buzz about.
Today I wrote some more and tomorrow I will as well and now when I go to bed my brain doesn't scream "No! No! No more about the book!" - it screams "Tell me more, ah go on, tell me more!"
And even better Kitty from Book 6 is knocking on the door wanting to come in.

I think in letting go, entirely, for even those few hours, something clicked back into place and I live to write another day.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

This week has been a crazy week

First of all it has mostly be dominated not by the news of the royal engagement but instead by the introduction of the Atex Content Management system in the Derry Journal (feel free to fall asleep now).
A quick Google (always love saying that word in a soft Galway accent, for the record) of Atex and Johnston Press (our parent company) will show that the move has not necessarily been a popular one throughout the group.
And I can tell you all now, it has been a stress fest here. Most of this admittedly from the lowly reporter's point of view (that's mine...) has been because it is very different to how we worked previously. VERY different. I've worked all week with three crib sheets in front of me, what feels like 100 different windows open on my desktop and amid an atmosphere of sheer insanity.
I have sworn quite a lot.
But we will get there and it is just a matter of things bedding in.

What did make me smile though was a lovely review on Chick Lit Reviews which said IGTBP cemented as one of Ireland's finest Chick Lit writers -which was a very nice thing for them to say indeed. The reviewer wasn't so keen on the sexual content in the opening chapters which I think painted a picture of the book as a bonkbuster... I can assure you it's not. There's a bit of innuendo and some near the knuckle humour but there isn't actually all that much sex... not really. Swear to God. There isn't even a single throbbing doodah....

Finally I booked tickets for Bon Jovi playing in the RDA in Dublin next June. Yes, I will be the almost middleaged saddo sitting in the comfy seats asking them to turn it down a bit. Or maybe I'll just rock it out.

A bit like the war, we'll not mention the book.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Not that kind of girl

My sister (the younger one) has worked exceptionally hard and has managed to shed an amazing 78lbs this year (that over five stone in old money).
She has blogs about it here - and also about her new cooking habits which have, no doubt, aided her weight loss.
You see Emma is what is known as a foodie. She sees a cupboard of ingredients and conjures up something exotic, tasty and healthy. I am not a foodie. I see a cupboard of ingredients, get myself befuddled and order a pizza, or whizz up an exceptionally uncreative jacket potato.
I have berated myself about this for a while. I would love to be the kind of person who pours over books from Nigella/ Jamie/ Hugh/ Gordon and who creates amazing meals for my family. The sad fact is, I'm not. I think I'm the bees knees if I whip up a quick vegetable soup and or home made lasagne but that is about as far as my culinary skills go.
I do rely, perhaps too heavily, on tinned soups, pasta and sauces and yes, potato waffles and it does annoy me. But I have to remind myself that I am just not that kind of person. I never will be. I simply do not have the time to slave over a cooker for hours - not with the two jobs, two kids and house that messes itself to look after.
I am jealous though - especially of the results Emma has achieved. I also think it is amazing that her children - even the baby who is just a year old - will eat almost anything put in front of them while my two are fusspots.
I refuse however to beat myself with a stick over my lack of culinary flair and remind myself that no one does as good a cheese on toast as I do.

These shoes were made for walking...

The quest to lose a bit of weight and shape up has stepped up a gear. Let me say for the record I had diastrous summer putting back on a healthy portion of the weight I had lost at the start of year.

I have to take my oil - this was all entirely my own fault. I stopped going to my WeightWatchers’ meetings and ignored the gentle nudges my class leader. I figured I knew it all and anyway, it was summer, it was the one time of year when weight is guaranteed to fall off you whether you try or not. Sure don’t we all go swimming and walking and running around on the beach like eejits every summer? Aren’t there healthy salads almost coming out of your ears during the warmer months? I was bound to end the summer month a skinny minny - it was inevitable.

I didn’t take into consideration the barbecues, and how much I love burgers laden with cheese. I didn’t take into consideration the bottles of wine, and the crisps and dips and, looking back I didn’t do so much of the swimming, walking or running around the beach. I did a great deal of watching the kids swim, walk and run but I took on more of a supervisory role which, while important, is not so great as a cardiovascular work out.

So it was hardly surprising that come two weeks ago I found myself in the uneviable position of having to walk, shamefaced, back into WeightWatchers and ask very nicely to be given another chance. (You always get another chance, for the record, but I still felt like a gack.)

I decided however that it would take more than a weekly weigh in and a bit of counting points to help me along the way. I would have to do some exercise - and by that I meant actually moving not just supervising the moving from a comfortable seat.

I thought about it. My fitness levels are disgraceful. The sum total of my weekly activity involved the aforementioned supervising and walking from the car to the school gates/ office/ round Tesco and little else. I don’t think that I have ever been so unfit before in my life. There was a time I could have danced all night and would have barely broken a sweat, or a time when I could have swum a good 50 lengths of the pool without calling for a cardiac ambulance afterwards. These days walking up the hill to my house leaves me done in.

So I decided to take things relatively slowly and do something which would allow me to build up my fitness levels gently. Ladies and gentlemen, I have become a walker.

I have become one of the fearless souls who walks at a speedy pace along the highways and byways of Derry in the early evening huffing and puffing as I go and waving my arms around in a bid to really get my blood pumping.

Now walking, in theory, sounds easy. After all I’ve been doing in since I was 18 months old (I was a late starter). I figured it would be a case of simply putting on a pair of sensible shoes and putting one foot in front of the other.

The only problem was, I don’t actually own any sensible shoes. So first of all I had to go and buy some. It’s long accepted that I am marketing man’s dream so I was persuaded to buy a pair of magic trainers. They aren’t, of course, actually magic but they do claim to help work your thighs, bum and abdominable muscles extra hard while you walk so that you tone everything while you tootle along.

Slipping my feet into them that night I felt like I could take on the world - or the two bridges - no bother to me. In fact I felt like ringing up Ilex and telling them to get a bleeding move on with the third bridge just so that I could walk it as well.

But stepping out, my body quickly seized up in shock. I was walking, at speed, in extra sensible muscle stretching shoes. My body did not like this. Not. One. Bit. And as I walked I was sure the shoes were getting heavier with each and every step until, by the last assault on a very hilly street in the Waterside I had taken on the appearance of Herman Munster clumping my way up the hill while snails whizzed passed laughing their shells off at my feeble attempts.

I didn’t give up though. Indeed the experience scared me - it is not right for a 34 year old to have the physical agility of an 84 year. On a serious note it dawned on that I was not setting a good example my for two, admittedly very active, children and that if I didn’t sort myself out I may not see 84 years old at all.

So I went out again the next night - and it hurt. And the night after - and it still hurt. Two weeks on it still hurts. The Herman Munster walk has not disappeared but I’m 5lbs down and starting to look forward to trekking the roads each evening.

Who knows, if I keep this up I may even be fit for a bit more that ‘supervising’ next summer?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

That's what friends are for...

Usually I reserve gushing over my fellow writers to the acknowledgements of my books but I want to say a public thank you to two very special fellow Northern Girls for absolutely being there for me over the past couple of weeks when I've been feeling crappy.

These girls, hugely successful and very busy in their own right, have taken the time to call, email and text to make sure I'm okay but have also given me the space to get my head straight. They've also each been dealing with their own issues - but have selflessly been there for me and I absolutely appreciate it more than words can say.

The first is the lovely Fionnoodles, aka Fiona Cassidy and the second is the uber stylish Mrs Sharon Owens who really have proved to me that writing gives you some amazing gifts in your life, not least the support and friendship of your fellow authors.

It's nice to think of summer

Especially when the heavens are opening as they today. Seriously... if I weren't so well mannered I would say it is pishing it down. (Pish is an underrated, if slightly offensive word. But sometimes no other word will do).
Poolbeg have sent me the cover for the summer mass market release of It's Got to Be Perfect - and it's a deliciously frothy wee cover which made me smile.
Hopefully it will make you smile too!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Thank you for your kind comments

I've received a number of lovely comments, emails and messages of support following my post last week about how I'm feeling a bit meh just now.
I'm feeling a bit better this week - still very anxious (probably due to the DAMN BOOK NOT BEING FINISHED) - but getting there.
I've tried to get out and about walking a bit in the evenings which seems to clear my head and I've been eating better and taking my happy pills like a good girl.
I feel as though, if I just keep trying, I will get there. So thank you.

Monday, November 08, 2010

No, its not finished yet

... the book.
We are in the endgame though. Almost 80,000 done - the end in sight - the finish line not too far in the distance.
I wrote just under 4000 last weeks of new material and spent a considerable amount of time editing the rest  of the book and reading over it and hoping I didn't hate it.
Thankfully I didn't but dear Lord I am at the stage where I want this book to be done already.
I imagine this is what marathon runners feel like when they hit the wall - knowing that you have to go on but wanting so much to just sit down in the middle of the road and let someone else do it for you.

Friday, November 05, 2010

Sticking up for the fatties

The internet is no doubt a great place for having a row. At any given hour of the day or night you can click online and find some scandal or other brewing.

This week scandal has particularly ripe. First of all proud parents from across the UK got their knickers into a knot when some scurrilous individual reported that a bonny baby competition being run by a highly respected clothing chain was in fact just a cover for a paedophile ring.

Second of all it was revealed that the editor of a US beauty magazine branded her cover star, LeAnn Rimes a ‘husband-stealer’ in an email to readers, prompting anyone and almost everyone to voice their opinion on how the country singer conducts her love life.

And most recently, a US journalist has prompted a massive backlash after hitting out at a new comedy show focusing on - shock, horror- overweight people.

I’ve watched one episode of ‘Mike and Molly’, which tells the story of two overweight people who meet at an Overeater’s Anonymous meeting and fall in love. It’s on one of the Sky channels I pay for but don’t have time to watch very often.It was an okay show. I didn’t find it particularly funny - certainly not as funny as Friends or Will & Grace or any of my previous favourites.

I didn’t find it offensive though. Maura Kelly, however, did. In her MarieClaire column she said: “I think I'd be grossed out if I had to watch two characters with rolls and rolls of fat kissing each other ... because I'd be grossed out if I had to watch them doing anything.

“To be brutally honest, even in real life, I find it aesthetically displeasing to watch a very, very fat person simply walk across a room — just like I'd find it distressing if I saw a very drunk person stumbling across a bar or a heroin addict slumping in a chair.”

Fat is, of course, an emotional issue but sadly it is the case that increasingly these days fat people are considered fair game for people looking to throw cheap shots. (Maybe it’s because we can’t run as fast?).

It’s no longer acceptable to admit to being racist, sexist or ageist but throw a quick “Who ate all the pies?” shout out at a passing fatty and you are likely to get people agreeing with you rather than making you feel bad about being an insensitive feckwit.

It is acceptable for those who have never had a weight problem to sit on their bony rear ends and pass judgement on those who struggle to control their girth. “Eat less, move more. It’s not exactly rocket science,” they cheep. “Fat people are just lazy thickos” they mutter.

In their mind anyone above a size 10 (because, according to the Daily Mail, size 12 is pudgy these days) obviously spend their days lying on the sofa stuffing turnovers down their necks and drinking full fat coke in their tea instead of milk.

I would bet, based on personal experience, that the rruth is is that most overweight people know they need to change. Many want to change. Some will - and the right support will help them do that. Some won’t. Most will be aware that these days being overweight is the modern day equivalent of walking about with a bell around your neck shouting “unclean, unclean”. You can’t hide from it - it is there with you morning, noon and night.

The best way to help an overweight person find the inner determination to make healthy changes is to build their confidence and shower them with encouragement. It is not to make us feel like useless lumps.

It is quite clear that Ms Kelly thought that she was either being funny - by pointing her fingers at the fatties on the telly and laughing - or trying to be helpful. “I'm happy to give you some nutrition and fitness suggestions if you need them,” she twittered, before later admitting she has a history of anorexia. Now call me cynical, but I’d rather not take my health advice from someone who has an unhealthy relationship with food and what she in her own words describes as a “lifelong obsession with being thin”.

It is clear that she missed the mark. Instead of getting the expected “Hear, hear! Slim down you fatties” responses to her article she has found herself at the centre of a storm.

She has been accused of bullying fat people. Hundreds have called for her dismissal - threatening to cancel their MarieClaire subscriptions if she is not booted out the door quicker than either Mike or Molly could ask for a side order of chips with their burgers.

A little part of me feels sorry for her, but a bigger part (no pun intended) feels that, in the simplest of terms, she needs to take her oil.

It’s time that people learned that it is wrong to pass judgement on someone just because of their physical appearance - be that their colour, their age, their gender or their size.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I wonder how Marian is doing...

I wonder about Marian Keyes a lot - not just because she remains a real inspiration to me and I feel like I know her even though we've never met - but also because this year she has been battling the horrors.
I know what the horrors feel like. They are like my long lost friends - and every now again they pop up, as if on Facebook - and poke me as if to say "we haven't gone away you know".
Lately I've been feeling a bit 'horrific' again. Some keens observers may have noticed - indeed some have contacted me to ask why this blog has been so quiet. Yes, I have been launching a book, and trying to write another book, looking after kids and taking very funny turns with the old dizzy spells and the like but I've also been feeling mired in, well, crap.
I cannot concentrate. I cannot have conversations - although I do feel as if I'm having a constant conversation over and over in my head with myself.
I feel raw and exposed as if everyone is looking at me and pointing and laughing.

I googled Marian this morning to see if there had been an update and I found her newsletter from May.

In it she wrote

I’ve heard people describe depression as feeling like they’re living behind glass, of being numb and unable to experience anything, but for me, it has been totally different. It has been like being poisoned, it’s felt like my brain is squirting out terrible, black, toxic chemicals that poison any good thoughts

I hear you Marian... I am trying, I swear. I am trying my positive affirmations but the nasty voice is louder.

She also wrote that there are days when her ambition is just to make it through til night time. Thankfully those days are few and far between for me but I do feel as if, well, could it just stop for a while? The routine? The monotony? The pressure?

Generally people have been very lovely indeed and I have some very lovely and supportive friends who have picked me up and dusted me off more times than I deserve, but I feel lost all the same - as if who I am is a mystery and who I might become is a scary prospect. I just want to be me.
The hardest thing is that writing has become a chore - one which I enjoy when I'm in the middle of it but one which fills me with a sense of dread at times. When it doesn't work, immediately, I panic. I panic that I'm broken and four books in, I'm done and that the well has run dry and that I'm done.

Of course all this is a bit self absorbed and waffly, but all in all I wonder how Marian is doing and I hope that she is clawing back from the brink because if she can, I can.

Monday, November 01, 2010

Weighing in again, again

Tonight is my first "new me" weigh in.
I'm nervous people - very nervous. I have been good -apart from a slight (thin crust) pizza incident last night. I have walked - a lot. And I bought those new Reebok Easytones so when I walk it's like really, really, really sore on my arse but still I walked (well it was kind of a waddle by the end but still I was moving... there was a snail, in fairness, overtaking me on the outside lane, but still... I was moving...).
I have cooked almost everything on my "I can't believe it's not a George Foreman health grill" health grill and I only had two glasses of wine - THE WHOLE WEEK. Two glasses. This, my friends, was a huge sacrifice and not at all an easy one to make.
I feel as if I should have lost about half a stone and yet when I stepped on the scales for my "assess the damage" pre weigh in weigh in this morning I appear to have GAINED 1lb.
If you could see me right now you would see that I have my best non-impressed face on ever.

In other news, the wordcount progressed by 3000 last week. This week I've set myself a challenge of increasing it by a further 4000. At that rate the book might get finished before the end of the year.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Starting again, again

It seems to be the case that every few months I write this post. Perhaps I could just repaste what I have previously written?
But I am starting WeightWatchers again. I should say, I have NO DOUBT in my mind that WeightWatchers works. Sometimes I just don't. I get lazy, fed up and daunted by the mammoth task ahead of me. I genuinely feel very jealous of people who just have a wee half stone or stone to lose. Do they not know how EASY that would be??? (Of course I know it is NEVER easy but I like to make excuses to be annoyed with other people more fortunate that me).

The ongoing saga of my dodgy health continues. We are now at a stage where we do not know if it is vertigo, migraine, low blood pressure, stress, depression or something Very Bad Indeed. I am a pin cushion. I also rattle when I walk. But instead of comfort eating myself out of my worry I decided this week, after a particularly nasty fainting/ losing strength/ nausea episode to actually take better care of myself - properly.
I've bought fancy trainers (the ones which tone your bum while you walk - and I can tell you after my first outing in them my bum aches like the bejaysus) and a pair of jogging bottoms. I have eaten a big pile of soup. I have had my first "new me" weigh in (eeek, the months off WW have not been kind) and I have booked myself a weekend in Glasgow with my VBF. I am, and this is a big one, also going to cut back on my wine consumption.

So, as the saying goes, once more into the breach dear friends.

Ever heard of McDonalds, Rooney?

On Tuesday of this week my journalistic colleague Eamonn McCann asked, in his column, ‘How come Cheryl Cole is a millionaire?’.
Now whether or not Ms Cole has the musical talent to deserve her fortune is debatable. Her songs are at best catchy - but not timeless. Her performance skills are hit and miss. There has been much furore over the fact she mimed her way through her performance on Sunday night’s X Factor - but in fairness to the girl she did have to put in a dance routine that would have most of us mere mortals calling for the cardiac ambulance.
But what she does have is the likeability factor. Her interview with Piers Morgan on Saturday night showed her to be very much still a normal girl at heart - heartbroken by the break up of her marriage, shell-shocked at her recent near death experience and sorry for any mistakes she may have made in the past (although the lamping a waitress in the toilets of a nightclub incident was brushed over).
She has that enviable quality of being exceptionally beautiful, stylish and wealthy and yet still being the kind of person who you think would be a good laugh to go out for a drink with or have a good gossip with.
Despite her fame and fortune and her position as Simon Cowell’s right hand woman she seems nicely grounded. Sure that might not mean she deserves her mammoth pay packet - certainly no more than any other nice and friendly worker in any job in the world - but I don’t begrudge her it either.
I can’t however say the same for the arrogant little eejit that is Wayne Rooney. I don’t pretend to know anything about football. I care even less. I will tolerate a certain level of discussion on the subject given the fact I have a six year old son who is becoming increasingly obsessed with the game.
I did, however, follow the saga of Wayne Rooney and his indiscretions with a call girl over recent months. I followed how Coleen took him back and how he wandered about very shamed faced knowing that he had just shown the world what a pathetic little cretin he really was.
I really didn’t think I could like him less and then, last week, he took things one step further - throwing his toys out of the pram and posturing about he how deserved loads of money.
I have said it before and I will say it again. It is only a game. These men may be skilled, yes, but they are skilled only at kicking a football around - something that my six year old can do. My son doesn’t deserve the world handed to him on a plate because of it and nor does Wayne Rooney - especially when he displays such utter arrogance and lack of empathy for anyone living in the real world.
Rooney signed a £50 million deal with Manchester United and will stay with the club for the next five years. To celebrate he and Coleen jetted off to Dubai where they are spending some of his fortune drinking champagne at £36 a glass and eating chicken nuggets and chips for £25 a portion. Someone should tell him about McDonalds. A Happy Meal with chicken nuggets and chips costs around two quid and they even throw in a free toy. It would certainly suit his spoiled, childish personality.
According to the Daily Mail, £50 million a year equates to a pay packet of £28,571 a day. I’d hazard a guess that the majority of Derry families survive on that income, or less, a year.
His hourly wage is £1,190. Shame football doesn’t operate on a clocking in and clocking out basis. How many hours a week does Rooney actually spend on a football pitch, I wonder?
When you think of this megabucks deal in conjunction with last week’s comprehensive spending review, it is all the more galling.
Over the next four years thousands of us will lose out. Families will lose their benefits or have them slashed. Thousands of people will lose their jobs - thousands of hard working, skilled and talented people who provide vital services will find themselves at the dole queue. The Arts will take a hammering. Health services will be diminished. Capital spend on key projects such as the improvement of schools and hospitals will be put on hold. Taxes will rise.
And all the while Wayne Rooney sits in Dubai ordering his fancy chips and nuggets and drinking cocktails at £17 each. He needs a dose of the real world, and fast.
Perhaps, however, the tide is already turning. He didn’t win himself any fans last week. Indeed those who were perhaps most loyal to him threw their hands up in disgust. Protestors gathered at his multi-million pound pad when he revealed that money, not loyalty to the club, was what was driving him.
Hopefully football fans have long memories and one day they will help teach Rooney a very important lesson - life owes you nothing and even less if you act the maggot.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I'm trying to finish the blasted book

I still have a good 25000 words to write - finding the time is proving really difficult as mammyhood seems to have taken over my life entirely.
The boy has activities almost every day of the week - I feel like a taxi driver. The girl is very demanding - in a lovely toddler-ish way, but demanding all the same and my house seems to have some sort of "mess it all up" poltergheist living in the rafters who throws things around as soon as I turn my back.
I am a wreck - a tired, bloated, grumpy wreck. My inner Ouiser is back... I cannot keep my cool.
I long for an hour (or week) away in a quiet, peaceful hotel room with just my laptop and the work in progress to get the fecker done.
This is where it gets tough and only I can deal with it unfortunately. The mad mammy is about to get madder!

Monday, October 18, 2010

And as for the X-Factor - I want Matt to win

My baby's baby

I have caved recently and bought my baby a baby of her own. No doubt there are "pink stinks" campaigners out there who would have me hung, drawn and quartered for caving in to gender stereotypes but I care not.
When I was wee I loved my baby dolls and after almost seven years of Bob the Builder, Ben 10 and Star Wars I was very much looking forward to reliving my own childhood years so when the baby yelped with delight at the sight of baby dolls in the local toy shop I didn't need to be persuaded too strongly.

The problem is, I think I may have developed a problem. Along with the doll I have bought several outfits, a baby blanket and those wee dolly nappies. I should stress that my daughter wouldn't care if she was just dragging around a naked dolly with its arms hanging off but me, well I'm a little more particular about my fake grandchildren.

I'm already delirious at the thought that, when she is big enough (my baby, not the fake baby - I know th fake baby won't grow) I can buy accessories for me her to play with - the likes of tiny playpens, car seats, slings, and those magical bottles which fake empty when you turn them upside down has me jumping with joy.

And no this doesn't mean I'm broody before any one gets smart. I'm just enjoying the wonderfulness of being the mammy of a little girl after years of boyness.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

And another from the book launch...

Along with the news the book has entered the Irish charts at number 18 here is a picture of me and my two at the launch..
And the reviews are starting!

BookShelf bloggers have said: "The books is absolutely a laugh out loud story of disaster after disaster...I cant wait to get hold of another of Claire Allan's books and will be certainly watching for more titles "

Monday, October 11, 2010

So we had a launch...

And loads of people came.
And I read and it was very lovely indeed.

The first pic is of me reading from the book and the second is of my family at the launch, from sitting are mum and me, standing are my brother Peter, my dad, my sister Emma and my sister Lisa to whom the book is dedicated.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

What a week

I ca never be trusted to drive anywhere outside of my comfort zone. I proved that last week when I set off for Eason HQ to film for TV3.
Google maps directed us to Ballymun. The people of Ballymun looked at us like we were thickos from the North. So we spent 45 minutes driving around Dublin airport, Swords, Claremont and other such places and eventually found our location (after I'd turned the air blue on more than one occasion in the car).
So we filmed in TV3 and then drove onto Poolbeg towers in Baldoyle (didn't get lost but only because I was following my editor as she drove) and we had lunch in a wee cafe just around the corner.
Big fat eejit that I am, I managed to get lost on the way back to Poolbeg and my editor was just setting out search party mode when I found my way back.
This was not the glam author life I had been promised!

I did not, however, get lost on the way to my first ever book launch which took place in the Central Library in Derry last Thursday. Loads of people showed up - including people I didn't actually know, which was brilliant. I made a speech, as did the boy, and the I drank about 76* cosmopolitans and sang some motown classics.

On Saturday I saw 'It's Got to be Perfect' in Eason, looking gorge on the shelves and now I'm getting the slow drip of friends' reviews coming in. So far it's been a thumbs up, but then they would say that, wouldn't they?

I'l keep you posted as to how it goes.

*not really

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fictional places I want to live Part Three

This is one is probably very obvious, but here we have it, Carrie Bradshaw's apartment (pre: Sex and the City movie makeover).
I'm sure the noise of the busy New York streets below would drive to me distraction but there is so much character in the old building that it seems like the perfect place to retreat. There are a number of fantastic writing spaces (at the window, on the bed, on any of the mismatched chairs..) and those tree lined streets, heaving with Aidans and Mr Bigs are never far away.
I'd move there in a New York minute.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Random conversations with the boy - some gems

So we are in the car listening to Amy Winehouse.
The boy turns to me, very seriously, and askes "Mammy, is rehab a real country?"

Another car journey, this time over a bridge. The topic of conversation turns to whales.
"Did you know, mammy, that whales can't kill you. They just blow you out of their holes."

I know it was very childish, but I laughed.

Monday, September 13, 2010

The universe makes some sense sometimes

Today's note

If suddenly and without warning, Claire, you had absolutely nothing to worry about, do you know what the world would begin to look like?
Un-huh, exactly the same as it does right now.
Alright, if suddenly you had absolutely nothing to be afraid of, do you know what you'd begin to look like right now?
Yeah, cool as ever.
OK, OK. If suddenly you had absolutely no expectations to live up to and no one to disappoint, do you know how free you'd suddenly be?
Yeah, same, same.
Get it? The only thing that would really change is your thoughts. And you don't need circumstances or other people to help you with that, do you?
I say it's time to blow the lid off this popsicle stand -

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Still thinking of Camille

Some of you have asked me recently how Camille Shave is doing.
For those who have not read my previous posts on Camille, she is perhaps the bravest little girl in the world. Just three years old, she will be undergoing brain surgery in just over two weeks to try and resect as much of her tumour as possible and give her the best chance of survival. Her parents, Hayley and Martin, have some devastating and difficult decisions to make in the coming weeks - decisions no parent should be faced with.
I think of Camille most days. I think of Hayley and Martin and their other daughter Lucia too but at times, I'll selfishly admit, I have to try not to think about them because I find the situation so painful. I'm lucky though, I can distract myself with other things.
Through all this Camille remains a funny, happy and beautifully delightful child. Hayley and Martin remain positive and inspirational.
It's Got to Be Perfect raised money for 'Camille's Appeal'. Camille and Lucia even make a guest appearance in the book. It was the very least (believe me) that I could do.

If you have five minutes and need a reminder why this charity is so important then please read this extract from Martin's latest blog.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Future Footballer's Wife? I don't think so

I was walking through a very well known clothing shop the other day when I spotted a table loaded with slogan T-shirts for young girls.

Being the mother of a young girl with a compulsion for buying her pretty clothes I stopped to have a look - and I turned on my heels and walked on as soon as I saw one T-shirt emblazoned with ‘Future Footballer’s Wife’.

I have many hopes and dreams for my daughter - not least that she will be happy and healthy. I hope she is successful at whatever she chooses to do and that she feels she can shoot for the stars and achieve whatever her heart desires.

My greatest wish for her is not that her ultimate ambition in life is to be married to some loutish eejit who kicks a ball around for a living.

I find it sad that there is a culture out there where a woman’s greatest ambition is to live the life of a z-list celebrity. That her dreams and desires centre solely around wearing Prada and Jimmy Choos and getting photographed for Heat magazine. I find it sad that some women’s ideas of success are tied up in how full their hair extensions are or how manicured their nails are.

I find it particularly sad that the culture of the WAG means that many women will put up with being treated as little more than a trophy in return for a bulging bank balance and their fifteen minutes of fame.

I’ve tried to think this one through - to ask myself if my ambitions were anyway similar when I was a little girl? Of course I wanted to be like some of the big stars of the day. I would have given my eye teeth to be Princess Leia (yes, I used to pray that I would be her best friend, I was that sad). I suppose there was a time when I wanted to be Madonna. I liked her clothes and dreamed of dancing around on a stage singing my heart out. But both these were women were, arguably, strong and positive role models. They were successes in their own right.

WAGs? Well, they just hang onto the laces of their men’s football boots.

I despair of the world my daughter is growing up in. The pressure on women to be beautiful, to appear flawless, to bag a man is more intense than it ever was in my childhood, teenage years and early adulthood.

I wonder what message she is being given by the media around her (of course I know she is too young to understand just yet, but T-shirts with such slogans show just how pervasive this dumbing down of the younger generation is). Is it really a case that a woman’s worth these days can only be measured by the effectiveness of her boob job, the amount of botox running through her forehead or the strength of the smell of the San Tropez wafting from her?

You may think I’m bitter. After all, I’m hardly the WAG type myself. I don’t have a semi-skeletal frame and when I write books I actually do it myself and don’t get someone to ghost write for me - but there is more to my objection than this.

A WAG, I would argue, is different to just being just the partner of a footballer. Being a WAG is following a culture in itself. It is about selfishness and vanity at the highest level. It is not about being a strong woman. How many times have we seen high profile WAGs have their heart trampled on by their cheating partners only to take them back for fear of losing out on the celebrity lifestyle?

Setting our children up with the notion that being a WAG is a worthy ambition is shameful. Telling our young girls that their greatest desire should be to marry someone with bags of money and live quite happily out of their bank account with no ambition to actually make anything of themselves outside of maybe launching a clothing line for a catalogue company is shocking.

I don’t expect the shops to launch t-shirts with slogans such as “future brain surgeon” or “future barrister”, but do we really have to sink so low? Do we have to stick with WAG slogans or ‘Future Shopaholic’ slogans or things which, from the earliest of ages, seem to put women in their place as silly, flighty creatures?

I’ve criticized the Pink Stinks campaign before - which wants gender specific toys in hues of pinks banned - but on this one I’m with them. They have their own WAGS t-shirts - but clearly the letters stand for Women Against Gender Sterotyping and as for their children’s t-shirts, I’ll think I’ll go with the one emblazoned with ‘Future Role Model’ for my daughter.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The new term was surprisingly emotional

I thought I was an old hand at these things.
I have packed the boy off to school for four years now (nursery, P1, P2 and now P3).
I didn't give it much thought to be honest apart from a passing nervousness about the amount of homework we are supposed to expect this year.
I took him to school, his enthusiasm infectious, and was delighted to see all his wee friends outside of the classroom as we waited for his teacher to open the classroom door.
Now I may be an overprotective mammy. I'm used to leaving him into the classroom, to his desk, and giving him a wee kiss before I go.
This morning was different. For those unfamiliar with the Northern Ireland school's system, our kids work under a new curriculum whereby Primary 1 and Primary 2 is supposed to be an extension of nursery - learning is focused through play and is less structured. (Although for my money the boys and girls in Joseph's class could give anyone a run for their money with their reading and writing).
Primary 3 is where the real works begins. As the school principal told Joseph before the summer "It's gonna be tough" (thankfully, he taught the children to say "It's gonna be tough, but I'm gonna do it!").
Leaving him today reinforced that. The teacher came to the classroom door and announced "Say bye to your mammies now, children!".
I, and several other of the self titled 'Over protective mammies brigade' almost had a stroke. What? Leave them? Here? At the door? Without knowing where they are sitting? Without knowing they are okay? Without having a wee chat with the teacher about how individually amazing our children are??????
Three of us stood, darting our head around the door trying to see that our (oblivious to our distress) children were getting on. We walked out, bereft. I have to say I fought back tears. It just seemed so grown up and it was hard for me to leave him with someone I know nothing about apart from her name.
I'm sure he is fine (she said, reassuring herself) and that he isn't given a second thought to his poor old mammy sitting fretting in her work.
But already I'm longing for hometime - just to see him and hear that it went okay.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I went back last night

... And the damage wasn't as bad as I feared. I have put on 6lbs which, okay, isn't brilliant but isn't awful either. With good planning and being strict I can hopefully have that off by the time It's Got to be Perfect hits the shelves at the end of the month.
It's a strange feeling. I am cross with myself for slipping but I know I am still a good bit off where I was when I started in February so hopefully a good effort now will see a good result and see me get that little bit closet to goal.
I got an email from a friend who yesterday which reminded me that weightloss is a journey and that sometimes we take detours but as long as we get back on track that is all that matters.

So for now, my inner Sat Nav is reset and I'm back on the right road.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Random conversations with the boy - Sexical Appeal

Joseph: "Mammy, what does Ooh la la mean?"
Me: "When someone thinks someone looks nice they might say it. It's French."
Joseph: "Is it a sexical word mammy. It sounds like sexical language to me."

Hauling my sorry ass back to WeightWatchers

Did you laugh at them? All the posts where I said I was going to try really hard to be good and then, after a good week or two, go back to WeightWatchers?  You should have.
I've not been following the plan all summer and all the bad habits have kicked back in - most notably the few glasses of wine and bag of kettle crisps habit which is absolutely bloody lethal.
My clothes are feeling snugger and yesterday I went shopping for a new coat and was HORRIFIED by the site which greeted me in the mirror. I have no shape. I felt ugly - like deep to the bone ugly - and I was so horrified I went home and gave out to all around me in a very diva-ish way.
I cna hand on heart say that I was not a nice person to be around last night.
In February, when I first started WeightWatchers I was inspired by my son asking was I sure I wasn't pregnant as my tummy was so fat. I said at the time I could have got annoyed and lay down under it or I could do something about it. Seeing myself in the mirror yesterday I had that same epiphany.

I am under no illusions that it won't be damn hard work. I know I have good 10lbs to go to be back to where I was before the summer but I'm going to start because I owe it to myself.

Friday, August 27, 2010

I lied about being the outdoor type

It was four in the morning. I had been lying in a half awake/ half asleep dose for about an hour and a half knowing that I faced the thing I feared most in the world.

The wind was battering the tent and it had been raining. I was curled up in my sleeping bag, on the edge of a half deflated air mattress trying to keep warm. But it was no good, there was no way I was going to get back to sleep without getting up and going to the loo. I cursed the glass of wine I’d had before bed and I cursed the people we had ordered the portaloo from for not delivering in time.

Rolling off the mattress and trying not to wake the baby who was sleeping beside me, I crawled commando style out of our tent, donned my UGG style boots and set off for the trek across the campsite to the toilet block before walking back and trying to zip myself into the sleeping pod of the tent with an ounce of grace.

This was not the romantic outdoorsy experience I had been hoping for!

Admittedly the day had started well. We had left Derry in the sunshine with a very excited six year old and a car full of camping equipment. We arrived at the campsite and set about pitching our tent while the baby slept in the car and the boy ran around making new friends and declaring it the best day of his life ever.

Tent pitched, sun blazing, we went for a walk and stopped to chat to the animals on a nearby farm before stopping off at the onsite playpark for a wee go on the swings.

There was I, all Mother Earth, delighted with myself and thinking “this is the life”. As I chased the baby around the campsite, her all delighted with herself having a big old field to run across - I felt the cares of the world lift off my shoulders.

Already my brain was running miles ahead of me. We could do this all the time - every second weekend if necessary - and we would take on the look of very healthy and sunkissed people. I almost longed for the sun to start going down so we could light our wee fire and sit in front of it blissed out.

All we had to do first, of course, was get the increasingly cranky little girl in our care to sleep. The fresh air had left her exhausted so we went through the bedtime routine motions. What we didn’t account for is that campsites can be really very noisy. I don’t mean in an antisocial behaviour kind of a way, more a children running around, having fun and chattering way. Mix that with one very nosy little girl and you have a lethal combination.

For three hours, I hushed, soothed, sang to (in a tent that I had learned was not sound-proofed) and pleaded with our daughter to go to sleep. I was longing for my glass of wine. I was longing for a wee seat out in the great outdoors with hubby and the boy over a barbecue. Sadly the baby who never sleeps had other ideas.

Once I was finally able to escape (crawling commando style again so as to not wake her) the sun had gone down, the wind had picked up and we sat, huddled together over the fire trying to get warm.

“You’ll be grand once you get inside your sleeping bag,” hubby assured me. I wasn’t so sure. All I could think about was the very warm, centrally heated, bedroom at home complete with kingsize bed and a 13 tog duvet. Reluctantly I changed into my pyjamas, slipped on my bedsocks (tres romantic) and fleece jacket and tried to get comfortable on the inflatable (thus also deflatable) air mattress. Zipping myself in beside the baby, while hubby and the boy snuggled in the other sleeping pod, I figured that at least the huge amounts of fresh air and wee drop of wine would send me over to sleep in record time.

I didn’t count on the wind - at one stage all I could think was that we would be lucky if we didn’t wake up surrounded by munchkins 25 miles south of the Emerald City. As the tent rattled and battered around me, I just longed to drift off to sleep. Anyone who knows me will know that with a good sleep I’m up for anything - deprive me of sleep and I become a terrifying harridan who you would be best to steer clear of.

I woke in the morning (I say woke, I mean gave up on the notion of sleep) to find that, thankfully, we were still in Fermanagh. The baby was exhausted and cranky. I had a pain in my neck from the air mattress. The rain was threatening to come down in sheets. The boys wanted to spend the day fishing (which is so not my thing).So I did what all good women would do, packed up my car, drove me and my girl home and had a lovely day with her before settling down in front of the X-Factor with a glass of wine.

I may have wimped out, but I felt better for it especially as I listened to the wind howl around the windows and watched the rain come down in buckets.

I have promised to try it again, maybe when the baby is older, or preferably in the care of a loving relative. But for now me and the great outdoors will just have to agree to disagree.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Something a little different

A colleague of mine - the girl (I say girl because she is under 30 and therefore a wain in my opinion) has MS. She writes about it here

And it is well worth a read, if you have the chance.
The same girl would often say to me "if you put all your troubles down on one table along with everyone else's, I bet you would pick your own back up". That's quite admirable given what she has to go through every day.

A long, slow labour

The characters in my new book (book five, working title of ‘The 30 Something Crisis Club’) have not been behaving recently.

Or should I say, two of them (and on particular) have not been behaving. The bubbly character of Hope has been doing exactly what I want her to do and has become her own woman - the kind of writing experience a writer loves. Her voice is strong, funny and individual.

The two others? Meh. Not so much.

It is a painful experience for a writer to reach a stage in the book where you have written yourself into a corner and you no longer know what is going on in your characters’ mind. (Yes, I know, I make them up. I control their minds... but not really. The characters become real as each book progresses.)

So I’m chopping - cutting swathes of text, reducing my wordcount instead of increasing it and trying to get into the mind of my two other leads.

With a month to go until deadline, this is not a pleasant task.

It also highlights to me just how isolating writing really is. Yes, I have a very supportive network or writerly friends who understand what such an experience is like but the simple fact is, no one else can write this book except from me.

It’s a bit like being pregnant and feeling your waters pop and knowing that the next bit is all down to you. Other people can cheer from the sidelines. They can even offer choice words of support. They may supply mind altering substances every now and again to numb the pain. They can tell you that you can do it, even when you think you are totally spent. They can advise you what to do next but the dilating, the pushing and the puffing is all down to you.

Now if only I could get some gas and air piped into my living room...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Random conversations with the boy

J: "Mammy, when you call someone an Einstein, what does it mean?
Me: "Well Einstein was somebody's name, and he was very smart. So it means people think you know a lot.
J: Well, I'm an Einstein then.
Me: You sure are.
J: And Grandad is an Einstein. He has a lot of knowledge. Abby (his cousin) is half an Einstein.
Me: And what about me Joseph? Am I an Einstein.
J: (with a dramatic roll of the eyes) Mammmeeeeee, it means you have to know stuff!

That's me put in my place!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Cassidy Sez

My fellow Northern Girl., Fiona Cassidy has just set up a blog, which is well worth a read.
Have a wee duke at Cassidy Sez for a laugh and an insight into writing.

Pack up your troubles

May God save and preserve me, this weekend I am doing something which up until now has been absolutely unthinkable to a person such as me who adores her creature comforts.

I am roughing it, without running water, an electricity supply or indeed a bathroom with a locking door to go camping with my family.

Our kitchen has taken on the look of the ‘House of Value’ as our camping supplies have accumulated - a tent (family sized), a gas stove (one ring - possible disaster in the making) and assorted lights, sleeping bags and air mattresses and plastic eating utensils. The portaloo, as I write, is in the post.

The boy has almost taken off into orbit with excitement and if the truth be told his daddy is not far behind me. Me and the baby? We’re a bit more reserved into our enthusiasm. In fairness she hasn’t a notion anything is going on and me? I think I’m in denial.

Booking the trip really was one of those ‘it seemed like a good idea at the time’ type of things. The husband and the boy had gone away for a boys’ own adventure kind of a trip to Donegal for a night and had come back with great stories of a night under canvas and the joys of the entire experience. (in fairness though, they are boys - they can pee standing up in a discreet fashion and have no need for hair dryers or similar equipment).

I think I was feeling a little fragile because, in the absence of a proper summer holiday and on the only good day of the last two months, I agreed to look at a family campsite. Booking it, and looking out at the clear blue skies over Derry, I suddenly had a rose tinted view of the entire experience.

We would run about doing outdoorsy type things all day, maybe a little cycling, maybe some frisbee throwing. We would eat a picnic of warm tomato sandwiches and soggy egg and onion baps and return back to our wee tent where, once the baby was asleep and out of the way of danger, we would like a fire and maybe sing a wee chorus of ‘Kumbaya’ (or similar campfire song). The hubby and I may share a wee aperitif and then exhausted from all the fresh country air and sunshine we would sleep blissfully under canvas until the following morning.

I fear it will be different - very different. I fear the rain. I fear that we will spend two days trying not to have our wee tent wash away down a hill in Fermanagh. I fear that the children will turn their noses up at my picnic efforts - in fairness because everyone wants something warm on a cold day, and I fear it will be very cold indeed. I fear that as it has been approximately 20 years since I have sat on bicyle the cycling may end in a trip to casualty. They say you never forget, but I’m willing to bet I’ll be the exception to the rule. I fear rain will stop play as far as the barbecue is concerned and that we will sit huddled over our one ring stove trying to make a pot of tea in what is seriously the smallest kettle in the entire known universe. As for singing ‘Kumbaya’ - well, it’s a well known fact that I can’t sing a note and believe me, the husband isn’t talented in that department either.

I fear the whole experience may drive me to drink... and not in a “wee aperitif on the terrace before dinner” kind of a way.

But I will give it a go. I’ll give it a go for the Brigini I used to be who used to get really excited at the thought of going camping and was gutted when we stayed in a school hall and not under canvas. I’m doing for the child I was who used to be obsessed with the Secret Seven and the Famous Five and long for all the mad adventures they have and I’m doing it for the six year old who is more excited about this than perhaps anything else in his entire life.

Maybe I’ll surprise myself. There is something appealing about leaving behind the trappings of modern life and spending time in the country - away from the Sky Plus and the Internet and all those other distractions. There is something very appealing about spending time somewhere the boy can’t get access to a Wii and we would be able to enjoy quality family time together in an age when getting time together is not so easy.

And who knows it might even be nice. The weather forecast for Fermanagh isn’t so shabby so we might just have a great time - who needs hotels and air conditioning? I’ll report back next week.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Feels Like Norway

Am delighted to announce that my second book 'Feels Like Maybe' - which seems to be a favourite among readers - should be hitting the Norwegian market some time in the not too distant future.
I've been made a lovely offer from a very well known Norwegian publisher and I'm delighted
I will reveal all the details when we have signed on the dotted line, but I am so excited that Aoife, Beth, Dan, Tom Austin and all will be introducing themselves to a whole new audience.

Fictional places I want to live, part two...

Iris's house from The Holiday, starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz
This would  be my weekend retreat - strictly a no kids/ no husband zone. I would sit on the squishy chairs with his feet on the squishy footstool and the fire roaring in the hearth and I would write til my heart was content. I'd take a break every now and again just to wander around the wild garden or maybe heat some scones on the aga and then I would maybe take a snooze on the sofa with some some soft music playing gently in the background.
I don't drink tea very often but this house would make me a tea drinker. It's just oozes cosiness and relaxation and my imagination could run wild there. The bookshelves add to it, of course. I've always wanted a room just for me with loads of book shelves. When I win the Lotto this will be my purchase, I promise.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The edits are just about done...

I'm about to sign off on the edits for It's Got to Be Perfect - hard to believe it will be in the shops in just over a month.
I had so much fun writing the book - and even reading it back made me laugh out loud - so hopefully that will translate to the reader as well.
I'm so excited, I could do a wee girly squeal!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Fictional places I want to live, part one

I give you Stars Hollow

I could die happy here! A part of me may long for a minimalist chic interior but a bigger part of me longs for something just liek this - complete with porch and swing. I think I may have watched too much Waltons growing up.
Stars Hollow, from The Gilmore Girls, is a gorgeous, quaint town where everyone knows your name and people call you ma'am. Everything seems to be decked in fairy lights and there is a magical feel to the whole place.
The name adds to the magic. It sure beats Derry/ Londonderry/ Stroke City anyway.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Did I ever tell you how neurotic I am?

... I mean as if you didn't guess by A) the name of this blog or B) the fact that it is really quite obvious that I'm unhinged?
Well, you should also know if you read this blog regularly that I go quiet when I'm in a particular madzer phase. So guess why I'm quiet?

Well the vertigo continues and it is now accompanied by a headache which may or may not be migraine.
Of course being neurotic, I'm now convinced that it could also be a brain tumour. A big fecker of a one. I know such things are no joking matter, believe me. And I have taken to veering between "it's only a virus" to wondering how on earth I'm going to break it to my family that I'm a gonner.

Now of course I have no medical evidence whatsoever to say this is anything sinister except for regularly feeling like crap. I also, sadly, knew someone once who "had vertigo" except it actually was a brain tumour and she is no longer with us.

I don't know how to shake the feeling. I'm taking so many tablets that I rattle. I am anxious x 100.

And to top it all off, I've agreed to go camping in a fecking tent at the weekend. Perhaps communing with nature will give me back a sense of reality? In the meantime I'll just keep taking the tablets.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

To launch or not to launch?

I've never had a book launch - ever.  I'm told they don't really impact on sales so I have never felt the need to have one.
But I have wanted to celebrate bringing a new book into the world and this time, on book 4, I'm contemplating it.
But it does seem very self serving. Really it's inviting a lot of people to come along, say nice things and buy my book. Can I really justify it? (Book launches don't come in cheap, for the record, and I've checked).
Derry - the City of Culture 2013 - has a lack of independent book shops and supportive and all as Eason are (and they are FAB!) they can't accommodate a few glasses of wine and a signing out of hours in a big old shopping centre which could hardly stay open just for little old me.
And yet, don't I deserve it? A little something? A little "yay you did it. You wrote a book with a new born and here it is and sure isn't it lovely?"

I veer between saying "feck it, let's have a party" to saying "don't be so stupid" and I just can't make up my mind either way.

Do you want to make up my mind for me?

Monday, August 02, 2010

A book which will make you laugh and cry

My lovely writer friend Fiona Cassidy's second novel is released today.
Fiona is one of us three Northern Girls - all Poolbeg authors who tour the country talking about writing, reading, Simon Cowell and other such things. We are very supportive of each other but I have a feeling this book is going to make my exceptionally jealous - because I have a feeling this book is going to hit the top spot, which it rightly deserves too.

Anyone for Me? is about this...Meet feisty, fun-loving Ruby Ross thirty-four, mad red hair, mad (in general), adopted and searching for answers . . . like, precisely whose genes are responsible for the mad red hair . . . She's impulsive, compulsive and unaware of what she s about to unleash in her quest for the truth. Isobel Ross is larger than life (despite being a serial dieter) and lives in a picturesque cottage in Donegal in the grounds of a manor-house hotel but why are the new hotel-owners so keen to get rid of her? She's harbouring secrets from the past and fiercely protective of her adopted daughter Ruby. Can she stop the wilful Ruby from opening a nasty can of worms? Throw in Ruby's forthcoming nuptials to the lovely Luke, a bling-loving bridesmaid in the shape of her best friend Frankie, a wedding planner called Gabriel who wears more make-up than the bride-to-be and you have chaos. Add to the mix a dusty box found by chance which leaves many questions unanswered, and you have a bewildered and rather ferocious Ruby asking is there . . . Anyone For Me?

This funny and moving tale about adoption is told with Fiona's trademark acid sharp wit, but where it comes into its own is that Fiona knows exactly how Ruby feels. She is adopted too, you see and she is an inspiration when it comes to seeking out answers about her own past. The book is not only hilariously funny, but raw and poignant in places because Ruby's feelings are drawn from Fiona's own experiences. But as Fiona would say herself - she gives the reader the ending she would have wanted for her own search.

Read it. Laugh, cry, and then - if you haven't already - pick up a copy of Anyone for Seconds? Fiona's first book.

I promise I'll not feel that jealous, honest.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A night out ain't what it used to be

The definition of middle aged is simple. Take one thirty-something-year-old reporter. Mix with friends. Add a liberal glass (or three) of Chardonnay straight after work. Throw in some Tapas (but clearly not enough to absorb the alcohol) and come up with the bright idea of ordering ‘just the one’ cocktail for the road.

Drink four cocktails. Sing a few songs - loudly - in a restaurant. Try to encourage a friend to give her tried and tested rendition of the intro to the A Team a go. Laugh, probably a little too loudly. Forget you have work the next day. Vaguely remember the taxi journey home and wake up the next morning needing a bottle of Lucozade like your life depended on it.

Spend the next day, or two, in the horrors piecing together segments of the night out and vowing, never, ever to drink again. Eat enough junkfood to undo all the goodwork you have done on WeightWatchers over the last few months but not quite enough to take away the swaying, sickly feeling in the pit of your stomach.

Text your friend (The A Team one) and ask did you make an eejit of yourself, knowing full well that she doesn’t remember and will be having the same thoughts as you. Decide, mutually, you are too old for this carry on.

Realise there is a reason that most of your socialising now takes place in front of the TV with just the one glass of wine and a good film. Vow that from now on you will be letting your hair down closer to home - if at all - and vow to resume acting like a responsible adult. Don appropriate mammy smile and resume housewifely duties of cleaning and playing with megablocks.

There was a time, dear reader, when things were different. There was a time when a night out didn’t leave me praying for an early death. There was a time when I could even have contemplated going out two or three nights in a row and would even have danced into the wee small hours rather than leave early to make sure I got a taxi home before the rush.

There was a time when I could be trusted with a cocktail. And I’m talking the big gulpens of cocktails they used to serve in Henry J’s as opposed to the refined efforts we had last Thursday night.

There was a time when going out for post-work drinks was all a bit Sex and the City - me, a young single woman with no children, no responsibilities and no stretch marks, slicking on some extra lipstick at the end of the day before sauntering into the bar with my friend for a few glasses of wine. We’d talk work. We’d talk hopes. We’d talk dreams. We’d have a giggle.

These debriefing sessions were a highlight of my pre-mammy life. Me and my friend (the A Team one) took such evenings in our stride. Of course there were times when we overdid it a little (and one occasion when we overdid it a lot) but mostly we were dignified because, well, the world was our oyster.

Our nights out were almost routine. There was little organising involved apart from saying “Drink after work?” and waiting for a smiley response. No babysitters had to be booked. No children’s jammies had to be laid out before you left the house. No list of instructions had to be left for either the babysitter or the begrudging husband at home. No guilt had to be felt at using one of your precious nights off to be out with friends rather than on a date night with your parenting partner (aka the husband) in the hope of injecting some romance into a relationship which now mostly involves discussions on who is the most tired and who changed the last poo poo nappy.

Your main concerns about your night out where how much money you had left in the bank and not whether or not your delightful offpsring would wake you up at 4 in the morning to have the craic.

You could handle the hangover at work because you knew when you got home there would be no one making demands on your time or energy and you lie in your pit from Friday evening til the Hollyoaks omnibus was over on Sunday morning if you wished and no one would care.

Those were blissful times. Those were times I took for granted. Now, when the opportunity arises I grab the wine glass with both hands and don’t realise that my 34 year old self definitely has a much lower tolerance for alcohol than the me at 23 or 24. I become like a mad woman on day release - relishing my night of freedom, not caring if I’m one of those older weemin who treats the bar to a chorus of ‘Going to the Chapel’ (and no, I did not sing alone). After the second glass I forget that I’m a responsible wife and mother and I let loose.

It is only in the cold light of day that I realise, fun and all as it is, the price is too high. Maybe the answer is that I get out and about a bit more, so that it doesn’t always seem like such a treat that I act like a two year old in a sweet shop? Maybe the answer is that I accept those days are behind me and hang up my lip gloss forever? Then again, I’d like to think there is life in the old doll yet.

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