Friday, January 29, 2010

No woman, no cry...

I consider myself to be a fairly open minded and liberal person. I pretty much believe in a philosophy of live and let live as long as no one is getting hurt or no one is acting a malicious manner.

Whatever your colour, your creed, your persuasion or what you choose to get up to the weekend is pretty much your own business and fair play to you if it makes you happy.

But sometimes, just sometimes, I read something or hear something and alarm bells start ringing and my “old biddy” radar switches to full alert. I instantly transform into a net curtain twitching Blanche from Corrie-a-like willing to have a good oul bitch about things.

Such a thing happened this week. You see another ‘man’ is pregnant and is selling ‘his’ story to the papers. Scott Moore from California is having a baby with his ‘husband’. Pictures of Scott, top off, man boobs on display rubbing his big old pregnant belly have appeared in newspapers and on websites around the world causing a great deal of debate.

Now I will say this clearly - I have no problem with gay couples having children. Absolutely none at all - should they adopt, or use a surrogate or use artificial insemination with a turkey baster. As I have said before - live and let live.

But, and this is a big but, I do have a very serious issue with women who have decided to have gender reassignment making a big song and dance about the fact they are now pregnant men.

In particular Scott Moore has not had full gender reassignment - he (or she, I’m confusing myself) - has taken hormones from the age of 16 and has had a double mastectomy. All his female reproductive organs remain intact which is what brought him to the decision to carry a child - one which he hopes to give birth to naturally through his very female body parts.

He made the decision to parent this child with his husband - also a woman who has gone through gender reassignment - except that Thomas (who was born Laura) has gone the whole hog and had the necessary alternations to his nether regions.

Essentially, we have two women who felt they were always men now living as men but publicly promoting the fact they are giving life - an inherently female thing - to a child.

I’ve never felt like I have been trapped in the wrong body. (Well, occasionally I wonder why I got the genetics I did when it would have been much more preferable to have an Angelie Jolie type figure..) It is not something I can speak on with any great authority but surely if the feelings that Scott Moore (who started life as Jessica) had were so strong - if his inherent belief that he was a man trapped in a female body was so fervent - he would not have the very strong female urge to carry and give birth to a child?

Being a man means being a man. It means no womb. No ovaries. No producing eggs and having them fertlised. It means no peeing on a stick and waiting for two pink lines. It means no morning sickness (lucky feckers) no baby kicks, no giving birth and no being a mother.

You cannot, I hate to say, have your cake and eat it.

If you want to be a man, be a man. Work away. More power to you. If you want to be a woman - go for it. You’ll hear no complaint from me. But don’t blur the lines - don’t going running to the press like what you have done is miraculous. It isn’t. It is basic biology.

You cannot and should not parade around the world shouting about the great big achievement you as a ‘man’ have had in getting pregnant. Excess facial hair does not a man make. Trust me, I know. I have a dodgy upper lip issue (okay, a small moustache type effort) which requires the attention of the hot wax from time to time. I am, however, still very much a woman and intend to always be so.

Scott Moore does not strike as a man who is overly confident about who he is. He does not strike me as a man who made a fully informed decision based on the 100% certainty that he was never meant to be a woman in the first place. He, in fact, strikes me as someone rather mixed up who wanted to hedge his bets and have the best of both worlds.

Oh, if he could make a quick buck selling his story to the world’s media, why not do that too?

Scott and Thomas already have two sons - which I believe was Thomas’s from his first relationship with another woman (again, I’m confusing myself here) and I suppose there is a greater debate about the impact of such mixed messages to young children growing up and craving that feeling of belonging and fitting in.

All that said, I do wish Scott and Thomas and their baby all the best. I hope they raise their child with love and give him a stable and happy home. I’m sure they have it in their ability to be good parents - they just need to be honest about who they really are.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The deep clean

Last weekend I decluttered my house. It was not a pleasant experience and I have to say I’m somewhat ashamed of the amount of utter crap I seem to have accumulated over seven years in our current home.
I remember so vividly when we first moved in and how we had barely a stick of furniture to fill it. Two of the bedrooms stayed empty. Our back room (a place I sometimes refer to as the family room in a poncy voice) had just a book case in it and the rest was filled mostly with second hand bits and pieces.
I remember back then that even though our house was largely empty, I still felt we had a little bit too much in the way of worldly belongings and I vowed that our home would remain a minimalist mecca with a strick “one in, one out” policy on any new purchases.
That didn’t last.
The rooms (not so quickly) filled - first with some actual new furniture and then with children and all that they entail. The family room, once bereft of everything bar a few Marian Keyes books, became the holding ground for 101 pieces of brightly coloured plastic in the shape of the boy’s toys.
And then it became an office - with shelves and a desk and a notice board and everything else relating to a work space.
When we added the baby who never sleeps into the equation - with her own collection of brightly coloured (mostly pink) toys it no longer resembled a calm oasis in a busy world, more an explosion in Toys R Us combined with a tornado in a branch of Eason.
I also had my secret shame. Have you ever seen the episode of Friends where it is finally revealed what Monica - the neat freak - keeps in her storage cupboard? Let me assure you her collection of clutter and rubbish was nothing - nothing at all - in comparison to what lurked beneath my stairs.
Cushions, paint tins, baby clothes, books, DVDs, approximately 27 handbags, tools, paint brushes, a rug, a couple of blankets, the boy’s long lost armbands, an old potty (cleaned, thank you very much), yet more brightly coloured plastic tat and the maternity clothes I wore when I was pregnant with the boy and couldn’t find last year when I needed them.
Lloyd Grossman would have had a fecking field day sorting through my self titled cupboard of doom.
But, after much hoking and poking and the occasional expletive and four runs to the dump/ recycling centre/ charity shop it was clean and organised and I wore the smug face of a woman who has spent the day up to her elbows in rubbish and bleach.
I never thought I was a hoarder before. Unlike my sister I don’t neatly pack away all birthday cards to keep as mementoes. I think somewhere I have our wedding cards, and the cards sent when we had our children but I haven’t consciously held on to things. Yet somehow I have still managed accumulated a lot of tat and put a lot of stuff away “just in case”.
I even had a small moment when I was bundling up the baby’s clothes when I wondered if I should keep them “just in case” - even though there is a greater chance of hell freezing over than me ever deciding to procreate again.
I wonder what it is in us that prompts to behave in such a way. Surely everyone has a cupboard of doom, a drawer of despair or a hidey-hole of horrors? Is it some latent throwback to the days when nobody had anything? Are we just all hoarders at heart? Is it a case that without persuasion we’d all happily fester in a mess of our own making?
Now I don’t want to overplay this. My house was bad - but it wasn’t Kim and Aggie bad. The visible areas were generally quite tidy (apart from the toy shop/ book shop explosion of the back room). but I can’t deny that instead of taking the bull by the horns and clearing out regularly I had definitely adopted the “what the eyes don’t see the heart doesn’t grieve over” method of house keeping.
Nonetheless I do feel suitably ashamed at how much we have added to landfill in the course of the last week and at my general slatternly ways. I’ll certainly not be giving Kirstie Allsop a run for her money in the home-making stakes.
Then again, I do feel cleansed by the whole process. I no longer fear the cupboard under the stairs. It is no longer my guilty secret. I don’t have to fear an avalanche of broken toys and handbags every time I try and retrieve the hoover. (In fact for the first time in about two years, the hoover can actually fit in it).
I may have been physically exhausted and mentally somewhat shamed by the experience but it has been a wee joy to fall in love with my house again - let’s just hope I’ve learned my lesson and in another seven years time I won’t be pulling this column out of the archives.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ten of my favourite things...

1: My son’s hands. I love them. I actually physically feel a surge of love when I see them or hold them. They are always warm. They are still squishy like a five year old’s hands should be. They are perhaps the cutest things on the entire planet and I love, love, LOVE the feeling of holding his hands (when he lets me. These days he runs on far too much).

2: The second contender for cutest thing on the planet is the baby who never sleeps. In particular the little curve of her chin to her neck - with the softest skin. It tickles when I stroke it and she laughs. I should say Cara has a unique laugh - kind of a really cute baby giggle mashed with a Beavis and Butthead dirty cackle. It is deeply infectious.

3: The way my nephew Ethan says “ta taaaaa” - like a wee old granny, or the child catcher from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I kind of expect him to say “Ta Taaaa, Lollipops....” but is cute and I love when we says it over and over again while loading my knee with Tombliboos and Pontypines.

4: Mammy hugs. I may well be 33 (almost 34) and woman big and a mother of my own but nothing in this world beats a hug from my mammy.

5: Dinner with the mister - when we get kiddy free time and go and get a wee bit tipsy and talk about the very, very long time we have been together and how it’s a blessed miracle we haven’t killed each other yet. Plus, he takes me to a place which does scrumptious breaded Brie... nom nom nom.

6: Bad words. I know this is neither big nor clever, but nothing beats a good f*ck (and by that I mean saying the word.... you dirty feckers).  There is no word in this world which comes close - not even feck which I love and use much more often. But there are times (and maybe this is a sign of my very limited vocabulary) when nothing but a good, loud and hearty f*ck will do.

7: Nice shoes. Yes, I am a cliche. But I like nice shoes. They don't have to be designer *laughs stupidly at the notion I would be able to afford designer shoes* but as long as I can look at them and smile, I'm happy.

8: Reading. Nuff said. Losing myself in a good book has always been one of my great joys from I was a bit of a wain reading Roald Dahl and the Secret Seven and going to the Creggan Library with my brother and sisters.

9: My daddy and my brother and their manic sense of humour. There is no way to adequately describe this in just a few words - needless to say they can both make me absolutely howl with laughter like nothing else.

10: Driving in my car. Not in heavy traffic mind - just tootling along over the Glenshane Pass on a nice sunny day. Good times.

I was sent this by the lovely Mammydiaries and now want to tag some friends to write their favourite things...

Fionnuala K
Sharon Owens

Monday, January 18, 2010

You may notice

If you scroll down the sidebar of this blog that I'm writing another book.
Yep, book 5.
Flying free and easy with no book deal, hoping someone publishes it!

I was sent this quote today...

It was in one of those "send this on" emails but I decided instead to share it here.
You don't have to send it on.
Just read it, and think about the words.

May today there be peace within. May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be. May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others. May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you. May you be content with yourself just the way you are. Let this knowledge settle into your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love. It is there for each and every one of us.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dear Iris

Oh Iris - what have you done? You’ve gone and, as my granny would say, made a holy show of yourself.

There is a part of me that feels sorry for you. I’ve had mental health difficulties myself in the past - I know they are hard to cope with. I know what it is like to feel utter despair. And if what the papers say is true and you are now receiving acute treatment for the same is true then I hope you come through it - and quickly.

But there is a part of me - the cynical journalist part of me -and perhaps the human part of me who has been so offended by things that you have said in the past, who has a lot of questions to ask.

The timing of your breakdown seems, well, a little convenient. I’m not saying I doubt it, as such. I know such things can happen without warning or after a long, slow build. I’m pretty sure that if I knew a major news broadcaster was about to tell the world I had been having my end away with a man young enough to be my grandson while doing some questionable financial deals along the way I’d feel a bit, well, wobbly myself.

I don’t claim to know what goes on in your personal life. To be honest I don’t care much about your political life either - you only really came to my attention when you called all homosexual people ‘an abomination’ and spouted on about how only child abusers committed greater sins.

That annoyed me Iris, I’ll be honest. I don’t hold much court with bigoted views but I would have at least respected you if you had been lived by your own strong Christian morals.

Having extra-marital affairs is still against the law of God, Iris. Or at least it was the last time I checked.

Now, woman to woman I’ll admit something. I can sort of see the appeal of Kirk McCambley. He is, as my friend from up the country would say “a fine thing”. If was put in a room with him and Peter Robinson and asked to choose, I think I’d go for him.

But Iris, I think there would be something in my head which would scream to me that a 59 year old woman having a fling with a 19 year old man was never really going to have the potential to be the biggest love affair in history. It was never going to end well, now was it? The wee lad is young enough to be your grandson. I do however admire your bravery at baring your stretchmarks, saggy areas and all and throwing caution to the wind - Go on ya girl ye!

Now, if only you hadn’t been married. And been a politician. And been married to a politician. Oh, and yes, if only you hadn’t been so openly bigoted and judgmental of other people.

Iris, i’m not sure if you’ve ever heard of the concept of the Karma Fairy? (Do born again Christians believe in Karma? I’m not sure.). Well anyway, I’m a firm believer in the Karma Fairy. (Between us, I imagine she looks a bit like Mavis Cruet from Willo the Wisp). She keeps an eye on what people put out there and then, when perhaps they least expect it (but most deserve it) she comes along and gives them a wee kick up the bum.

Iris, you have been kicked up the bum.

You see if you are going to be a bigot then at least be a clean living bigot. Let she who is without sin cast the first stone, and all that.

You have let your constituents down. You have let your party down. You have let politics down but most of all Iris, (and I’m adopting my sternest mammy voice for this) you have let yourself down.

And I fear it is not over yet. Much as I would not wish mental illness on anyone, I really do hope that what you have told us is true and that you are not just egging it on for a sake for a bit of sympathy.

If that was the case you wouldn’t be doing anyone with genuine mental health issues any favours. In fact I would go as far as to say your actions would be despicable. Much more despicable than sleeping with a fine looking 19 year old or doing some dodgy sums and keeping a wee five grand or so back for yourself.

Perhaps we could meet up some day to have a wee chat about it all? I’m needing inspiration for a new book, although between us again I don’t think I would be able to sell a story such as yours to my publishers. I know there is a trend for the increasingly bizarre and fanciful in chick-lit these days but some things are just too bizarre and too fanciful.

But if you fancy a wee chat all the same, I’ve heard there’s a lovely wee cafe on the banks of the Lagan. I hear they do cracker sausage rolls,

Much love,


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Desk life....

Here it is, a wee snap shot of my desk at the Derry Journal - testament to my personalised work space.
I would have loved to show you a snap shot of a lovely writer's desk but I don't have one. It's just me and my trusty laptop - on adventure after adventure.
So to give you a guided tour - this is the view to my left. You will see my phone - a vital tool for a journalist. It is not usually so clean and shiny. Usually it is more than a bit grimy.
Behind that is my document holder which holds a list of all internal extension numbers in the Journal along with a card Joseph made me wishing me a good day.
On my computer sits my Kimmidoll- Choya who is said to promote self belief and attached to my monitor is a clay butterfly my niece made for me when she was about three.
To the front of the picture (insert appropriate weather forecaster type hand gesture here) is a can of Diet Coke. I'm all about the Diet Coke. It's an obsession and probably not a really healthy one, but I don't smoke and for the moment I don't drink so give me a break.
Next to the coke is a tube of Sanctuary hand cream. It smells delicious and beside it is a postcard portraying the new £13.8million Peace Bridge being built in Derry - which is one of the main stories I have been working on today. I went to the launch and got a free pen - evidence of which can be seen on top of the notebook to the forefront of the picture. (Again, insert appropriate hand gesture here).
The word scrawled on the notepad, just so as you know, is Imelda and that is the name of a PR rep who just called me about something. I'm ashamed to say I wasn't really listening. It was to do with music though.

Are you bored enough yet?
Good. My job here is done.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

I'll (not) drink to that

January is really quite a crappy month, isn’t it? (Sorry for use of the world crappy but it was, believe me, the least offensive word I could think of to describe how rubbish January makes me feel.)
The current cold snap (a term I find just about as annoying as the Credit Crunch) is adding to my feeling of woe - as is the permanent not-quite-a-full-on-cold lurgy which has been plaguing me one and off over the last few weeks.
My two children - gorgeous to their mother of course - have a permanent trail of snot dripping from their noses and no matter how often we switch on the ridiculously expensive home heating the temperature in our house remains on a par with the inside of our fridge (which has started to make an ominous ‘I’m going to break down’ type noise).
The aftermath of the Christmas overspend is hitting home - or more realistically hitting the doormat with the arrival of the January Credit Card Statement of Doom - and I have my self assessment Tax Return to complete by the end of the month. Which also requires paying a big bill. All I can think is how that lovely money could be so much better spent booking a wee break
To top all this off, I have decided that for the most part January will be a dry month.
Yes. Seriously.
Drinking is a no-no. Sitting down with a wee glass of white to watch the new series of Desperate Housewives - the one chink of sunlight in a dreary month - is a joy which must wait til February. Relaxing after hitting deadline with a drink and a natter with hubby is no more. The ‘mammy’s little helper’ of a wee snifter after the wains have gone to bed is gone.
This does not make me happy.
By now, I’m almost a week in and it has been, perhaps the longest week of my life. It’s not that I’m a heavy drinker - obviously I did abstain for nine whole months recently while I was gestating the baby who never sleeps. Usually I have a glass or two over the weekend, and maybe the odd glass during the week. The festive period has, however, ramped up the stakes a touch. With a local off-licence selling my favourite wine at a much reduced price and the memories last Christmas’s alcohol drought still fresh in my head I may have overdone it on one or two occasions.
Thankfully there was nothing as horrendous as the famous sliding down the stairs incident of Christmas 2008 (which ended in a trip to Casualty on a rather hungover Boxing Day) but by the toll of the bells on New Year’s Eve my body was calling out for a break.
So I stopped (on Sunday, after I’d polished off the bottle I opened on New Year’s Eve) and I’ve been dry as a freshly changed nappy ever since.
Sunday night was fine. I was strong. In fact the only real wobble I had was on Tuesday night when the aforementioned Desperate Housewives was on and I had had a tough day at the office.
I’m hoping that it will make me feel fresher, less ratty and improve my sleep. I’m also hoping it will help me not to pig out on monster packs of Doritoes while under the misguided influence thinking that any calories consumed while drunk don’t count.
Because in a double whammy borne out of a fit of what can only be described as madness at the weekend i decided to also start dieting (again).
Let me state this now, me without wine AND chocolate is very, very unpleasant indeed. My body has gone into a state of shock and I’m under no illusion that the stinking achiness I’ve developed has been a direct result of my sudden detox. (Please note: I know that it is probably just the not-quite-a-full-on-cold lurgy kicking up a gear but I I like to be over dramatic from time to time - just in case you hadn’t noticed.)
The danger with this full on achiness is that there is now a wee voice whispering in my ear that i’m sick and should treat myself and sure a wee curry washed down with an ice cold glass of vino would do the drink.
I am, thankfully, still without enough to realise that wee voice is the devil incarnate - but by the end of the month, who knows?
Usually I don’t make News Year’s Resolutions - because they are almost inevitably doomed to failure but I figure if I take it one month at a time we shall see where it goes.
If nothing else, it will save me a bit of money to go towards my credit card bills.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Friday, January 08, 2010

Perhaps the best meme ever...

Or at least Keris' version of it was... mine might be a bit shit

1. Hum a jingle of which you know all the words. LOUDER. Now write it down so we can remember it too:
All the tiles you'll ever want, it's tile market
All the styles you'll ever want, it's tile market
Lots of something (presumably tiles) you can choose, it's style market
So much value, you can't lose.... it's tile market...

(Yes, that might be slightly wrong but Google has not helped me to find this online)

And you know I can’t just leave it at one:
Cuuuuurrrrrrlliiieeeeees, the Friendly Store.

(oh and Keris, I always thought it was Poochie-Woo).

2. As a kid, you played a board game over and over. And you cheated. What was it?
I'm not sure I cheated (much) but the Game of Life it was. How I loved driving in my wee car with my wee pins to indicate my children and all that lovely money. The Game of Life, however, is feck all like real life.

3. What was the name of a song you have been singing the incorrect words to all these years. What were you singing, and what should you be singing?
Erm, I'm sure there are some but I can't think - apart from Poochie Woo, obviously. (Honest, this is not a cop out).
But memorable ones from people close to me are - to Oasis' Wonder Wall - instead of "And after all...." my friend used to sing "And I fell off...."
And I can't remember which obviously non-one-hit-wonder sang "How Bizarre" in the early 90s, but friend (same as above) thought the words were "Cal Dezan" - which would make sense, if Cal Dezan were actual words and not just a product of her warped imagination.

Finally my niece once asked me to play the Prawn Cracker song in my car...
Eventually we figured it out... "I wish I was a prawn cracker with flowers in my hair...."

4. What embarrassing childhood story do your parents bring out just to mess with you for their own amusement?
There are two which spring to mind. The first is a spectular vomiting incident when we driving to the beach when I was little. I kept warning my daddy that I would be sick, he kept saying I would be find. Well I showed him! (and the floor, and the seats, and my mum, and my siblings....)
The second is the time they were ragging my happiness after I had said something stupid and I shouted back "anyone can make a mish-take" - and yes I pronounced it wrongly and in my adolescent rage and they have never let me live it down.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Depression - vile, vile thing...

Regular readers of this blog will know about my ongoing battle with depression. They may well even know that just over a year ago I had a complete hissy fit meltdown which resulted in weeks (yes weeks) of squealing, crying, not eating. not sleeping, just staring while waves of utter desolation washed over me.
It was the worst it has ever been and I was lucky - that particularly low phase, while it felt never ending at the time, lasted only a month or two and then tailed off until it was less bad and less scary and now it's only a couple of days of month and not so much about the screaming and the staring.

I read Marian Keyes' newsletter this month and it echoed how I felt back then and it saddened me because this is how Marian is feeling right now. She has laid her soul bare so many times and I applaud it for doing it again now and I hope, REALLY hope that is passes soon.

Her words, which I have pasted below, made me cry, because I know what she means. And I know that no one can help her but herself and that is what is such a bastard about this illness called depression.

This is much much worse. I know I’m leaving myself open to stinky journalists saying ‘What has she got to be depressed about, the self-indulgent whiner, when there are people out there with real troubles?’ so I won’t go on about it.
All I will say is that I’m aware that these are terrible times and that there are people out there who have been so ruined by the current economic climate that they’ve lost the roof over their heads and every day is a battle for basic survival and I wish I could make their pain go away.
But although I’m blessed enough to have a roof over my head, I still feel like I’m living in hell. I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t write, I can’t read, I can’t talk to people. The worst thing is that I feel it will never end. I know lots of people don’t believe it, but depression is an illness, but unlike say, a broken leg, you don’t know when it’ll get better.

It's trite of me to say 'It will get better' but believe me, from painful horrendous experience - experience when I would hit myself around the head to try and stop the inner pain - it does pass.
For now I'll leave you with a quote she has posted... which truly is inspirational...

Believe more deeply. Hold your face up to the light, even though for the moment you do not see.
Bill Wilson, in a letter 1950 in How Bill Sees It
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