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.
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