Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Random Conversations with the Boy... the virgin diaries..

The boy and I were singing Christmas songs in the car in preparation for his Nativity play. (He is playing Joseph again... am a very proud mummy indeed).

Anyway, the boy told me he didn't know 'Silent Night' so I launched into a (stunning) rendition ... and reached that line which has no doubt made parents cringe for generations....

"Round yon virgin...."

"What's a virgin mammy?" he asked.

My mind screamed "think of something... think of something... think of something" before I piped up "Someone who is pure and holy".

He nodded, taking on board this information.

"Well in that case *insert name of school friend* is definitely a virgin. He's light a candle at our Mass on Monday and that's a very virgin thing to do. I'm going to tell him he's a virgin first thing...."

Oh feck...

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Random Conversations with the Girl

A few years back there was the famous conversation with the boy which warned me about my behaviour in the car. As we drove over a speed bump the then two year old piped up with "That's a f*cksake bump, isn't it mummy?"
Needless to say my language improved.
On Sunday I was in the car with my parents and the girl (now 2 and 9 months) and my father, who was driving, drove off onto what can be a bit of a treacherous junction due to road works. This is a junction we pass every day and where, quite frequently, some sneaky fecker will zoom in front of you and cause a near accident.
I thought I handled said junction quite calmly normally until the girl piped up to her grandad, a little enraged "You forgot to beep the horn, Grandad".

At least it wasn't swearing.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The angel of doom has visited me...

I'm quite a fan of psychics and I tend to love to have my angel cards read. I believe the angels (and yes I do believe in angels very much) can bring you no harm and every reading I have had has been very life affirming and comforting.
Until I had a reading on Friday night, with a local woman who shall remain nameless. I arrived expecting, well, I don't know, some comfort, some reassurance, some promise that I will continue to beat this depression, that my career is going in the right path, that my son - currently bumping through the shitty sevens will not turn into a reprobate. What I got was this... and I'm paraphrasing here - partly for comedy purposes and partly because she talked a whole lot and it would be impossible for me to tell you it all.

Angel lady: *mumble mumble* angels *mumbles about timelines* angels... more about angels.
Me: *confused, wondering if she has started yet*
Angel lady: *turns over card- sucks in breath, turns over another card, sucks in another breath* then  proceeds to tell me that

  • My mother is getting ready to "cross over" to the other side. But not to worry because all her loved ones would be there, so sure wasn't that just clas
  • Oh my maternal grandmother - yep, she's ready to leap that big divide too - but probably after my mother, or maybe before...
  • My paternal grandmother (the one who is actually quite ill) well, she's a goner too - but to put it in perspective (and she said this with a smile) "You'll be surprised who goes first".
  • And finally, for her parting shot, a man close to me has cancer. He's not been diagnosed yet. But it's there. So ner, ner de ner. *
I wasn't feeling the angel love to be fair. And while I'm not one to mock anyone's beliefs the fact that she then launched into a whole speech about how Jesus visited her bedroom and, then, my (possibly... we didn't discuss it) heavy periods were directly related to Padre Pio's stigmata and well.... it's fair to say I was disturbed.

But as much as I  could not take this woman seriously, when my mother as rushed to hospital in an ambulance on Sunday, I couldn't help but wonder if scary angel lady knew her stuff.

Thankfully, after surgery, my mother seems to be on the mend but the worry... well, that will take a while to get over.

I'm still convinced scary angel lady was full of toot - and that makes me angry. Because if you don't genuinely have a gift... why speak to people? Why scare people? Why make random statements which lead a person to live in fear?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Random conversations with the boy - Christmas is coming

Joseph: Do you think Santa's list has a relegation zone? You know for when you are good, but know you could try harder?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Have you anything for Hallowe'en?

I’ve been on the hunt for a Hallowe’en costume for the boy this week. His request for this year is to be Harry Potter and he has approached it with great seriousness, googling costumes and presenting me with the results telling me where I could get a cloak, wand and Harry glasses at the best price.

“This one’s only £30,” he said, with the enthusiasm of a child who has no knowledge at all of the actual value of money. I thought of all the lovely, £10 costumes of Dracula and the like hanging on the rails of supermarkets the town over and tried to persuade him down that road. But no, his mind was made up. It was Harry Potter or bust.

I could have been creative, I suppose and sat down to try and make him a costume but my sewing skills are a thing of legend - and not in a good way. He would have ended up looking like “I can’t believe it’s not Harry Potter” with a dozen forgotten about pins ready to jag him if he so much as sat down.

I probably would have spent three times as much in botched attempts and ended up in a crying heap - so I gave in and purchased the elusive costume (at cheaper than £30, admittedly) and had a very happy child on my hands.

He insisted, of course, in stopping off at his granny’s house to show her his impressive new kit. She smiled, told him he looked fab and then later told me things sure had changed in the last few years.

His new costume was a far cry from the costumes we wore as children - when some times going out ‘dressed up’ for the big night was as complicated as pulling up the hood of your duffle coat and putting on a mask, bought for 10p in Wellworths. The whole look was completed not with a fancy loot bucket but with a Wellworths bag which would be filled to bursting with nuts, grapes and apples and the occasional disintegrating Rice Krispie bun.

These days you’d get hung out to dry for slipping a monkey nut into a child’s Hallowe’en lootbag in case the poor critter had an allergy. And you’d get nothing but bad looks for handing out apples and grapes.

Hallowe’en has instead become yet another feast of overindulgence - ladling handfuls of Haribo and squashed Celebrations into loot bags while mammies and daddies the town over have to work extra hard to make sure their children don’t over indulge too much and boke everywhere.

My children will probably never know the joy of separating out the different kinds of nuts and using the back of the poker to smash hazelnuts because someone else had use of the nutcrackers. I’m sure we ate more shell than nuts a lot of the time but we didn’t seem to care.

For the years when we went “all out” and dressed up more than with just a gawdy coloured false face, my mother would go into overdrive, hauling what she could from the hot press, the attic and the back hall to make us a costume. There was many a night we went out as a monster, wrapped in an old curtain, or, if a First Communion had taken place that year you got to don your frock again and dress as a fairy. If you were lucky you got a self made star wand to cart around with you - the star cut out of a Cornflakes box and covered in tinfoil robbed from the kitchen.

We would get together in our gangs - one street in Creggan pitted against the next, and walk round to all our neighbours’ houses asking if they had “any ‘hing fer Hallowe’en?” in our sing songs voices before walking on, peeking into our carrier bags every now again to assess our haul.

We all knew there was one woman on Broadway who gave out the most delicious toffee apples known to mankind, but you had to get to her house early. Rumours would quickly circulate over who was being generous - which few houses had sweets (some of which were left over Quality Street from the previous Christmas).

Similarly rumours would spread like wildfire if there was a whisper of a raid - where a gang from one street would steal your carrier bag and make off with your night’s work without a care in the world. Raids were a serious business - they struck more fear into our hearts than any tale of monsters, ghosts or vampires ever could.

There were no fireworks, no city centre carnivals, no wealth of storytelling and themed events. But it was still magical. If I close my eyes and think about it I can still smell the crisp Autumn air and hear the shouts of my friends that “they’re raiding at the top of Dunaff”.

Yep, there is a wealth of top class entertainment today. The children of Derry have never had it so good, it would seem, and yet I kind of think that back in the day, we had it pretty good ourselves.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Treading through treacle

It's been three weeks since I went back on my magic happy pills. I was warned, and knew from experience, that it can take 6 weeks or more for the pills to start working on a therapeutic level but I did feel a little more "up" the week after taking them - probably a kind of weird depressive's elation at admitting there is a problem.
Last week I struggled a bit - thankfully was able to hold it together and smile during my book promoting duties in Dublin and actually enjoyed bits of the process - but when my mood slipped I found myself staring into the great big abyss of nothingness and self loathing that comes with depression and I didn't like myself or the feelings I was having.
My sleeping has also gone to pot again - waking in the wee small hours and staring at the ceiling while anxiety - founded in nothing really - surges through my veins and the andrenalin wakes me up so much that I know there is no chance of getting back to sleep any time soon.

That's all thoroughly depressing, isn't it?

But I know it will pass - sure don't that tattooed on my neck to prove it? I've been here before and I've come through before. There is no reason why I won't come through again. It's just going to take a little while and I'm just going to have to give myself a bit of time - and cut myself a bit of slack - and maybe eat a little chocolate.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Today is 'If Only You Knew' Day

Out from now, in all good bookstores and on Amazon and from Poolbeg.
Read, enjoy, be nice.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Let's go round again

Well that time of year has come again when, despite my best efforts, I have to put my hands up and admit I need a little help. So I'm back on anti-depressants.
It wasn't an easy decision... well, I say that, in the end it was an easy decision. I had started to feel so low, and so anxious and the scary thoughts were starting to nudge their way back in. But I had resisted it for a while, thinking if I can get through this week, I'll be fine. Or just this month, I'll be grand. Or if I can get this book launch out of the way, things are bound to calm down. But the truth was, I was reaching the stage where I was looking "forward" to the book launch with more fear than excitement. The thought of going to Dublin, speaking to people, being out of my comfort zone was just too much.
I wanted to run away.
And then I got sick - all achey and fluey and I'm pretty sure it was a result of the stress I was putting myself under. So I slept, for about 40 straight hours and still felt anxious and horrible and I knew it was time.
Having been on antidepressants for the lion share of the last 9 years, I had thought I had gotten over the feeling of being somewhat broken or wrong by admitting a need for help. But I'll admit in the last six months, when I wasn't on antidepressants, I had felt a sense of relief or pride to be able to say "nope, not taking them at the moment".
I was a pretty fecking miserable cow though, with an exceptionally short temper and an increased propensity for panic attacks.

I feel I've made the right decision now. Only talking it through with my lovely doctor did I realise just how depressed I have become again - how how I'm feeling is not right. I have realised I have pushed so many people away over the last year because depression has made me feel not worthy. (Not to be said in Wayne's World type voice). I fear some friendships are unrepairable and that is something I will have to come to terms with.

I went to bed last night and my mind slipped back to a passage I had written in Rainy Days and Tuesdays, when Grace writes about how she has pushed people away when all she has really wanted to do is pull them close, and hold onto them and tell them how much she loves them. It is ironic, five years after I wrote that book, I'm feeling kind of the same.

But like Grace, I've got help. I'll get better. Please God, I'll start to enjoy life a bit more. And as for today, I'm going to take the girl to Jo Jingles and revel in her loveliness and then I'm going to sing my heart out with Encore Contemporary Choir and when I get home later, I'll pop my little white tablet and hopefully the darkness will lift a little.

A few weeks ago I had my tarot cards and angel cards read by a very lovely woman. She looked at me and said immediately "You don't need to go into the darkness". No, I don't. And I won't.
She added "When the sun shines in your world, wow, it shines bright!".

And she is right. So I'm letting the sun in a little. And I'm going to enjoy life, because there is so much to enjoy.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Random conversations with the girl

C: Can we go to granny's? My want to see granny.
Me: No, honey, granny is sick today.
C: Ach, why? (standard response to most things these days... complete with Ach first).
Me: She has a wee bug in her tummy.
C: Ach why she have a wee bug in her tummy?
Me: She just does. But she's getting better.
C: Why she have a wee bug? Where did she get a wee bug?"
M: She just did pet.

C wanders off a little confused and comes back later.
"Mammy, why does granny have a wee caterpillar in her tummy?"

Friday, September 09, 2011

Growing up too fast

So, the deed is done. My son was deposited back to school, shoes polished and hair cut into a neat and respectable style. His new, slightly too big, uniform was pressed to perfection and his schoolbag was stocked with new HB pencils, a collection of sharpeners and rubbers and some brand new colouring pencils.

He was excited to go back. He jumped awake at some time around 6.30am and declared, with a punch of his hand in the air, that “Yes! It’s a school day”. I spent the following two hours trying to convince him that we had plenty of time and no, there was no need to leave just yet.

He did hold my hand a little tighter as we walked through the school gates but he had no sooner set sights on his group of friends than I was dropped like a cold snotter and left to walk back through the gates to the car alone.

I’ll admit it. I felt a little emotionl. Actually I felt a lot emotional. Even though this was the fifth time I had left him at the school gates, surviving the emotional upheaval of nursery school and everything after there was still a part of me which realised we had reached another milestone.

He’s in P4 - officially out of the infants section of the school and officially one step closer to being one of the proper big boys. He’s put aside a lot of his childhood things already. His toys, the bits of plastic he couldn’t live without for years, are lying in their drawers replaced by a Nintendo DS and a football in the garden.

His spaceship themed bedroom - which we considered to be his big boy room - has been repainted in red and white, in honour of both his beloved Liverpool and his beloved Derry City.

He rolls his eyes when his baby sister wants to watch CBeebies, changing the channel to Sky Sports News at every opportunity. He no longer needs mammy to read him a bedtime story and wriggles about in an embarrassed fashion when I remind him of all the nights sat on the rocking chair reading ‘Bunny My Honey’ or ‘Guess How Much I Love You?’.

He turns scarlet with embarrassment when I remind him of the songs I sang to him as a young child and when his sister and I launch into a chorus of ‘Ba Ba Black Sheep’ he declares it dumb.

He’s most certainly not my baby boy any more. When he looks at me I see a young man stare back at me. His baby features are all gone. His face is thinner, his features growing more manly day by day.

His gapped tooth smile - a mix of tiny baby teeth and adult teeth which seem too big for his head, smile back at me. There’s not a hope of getting him to wear any clothes which are not football related and when he goes for a haircut he demands wax and wants to style it like a footballers.

I still remember when his hairstyle could only be described as “ frizzy curls” and when his baby face would grin up and me and no matter what I did, or said, or sang I was always the coolest mammy in the world.

Time, I feel, is just passing too fast. So when I dropped him off and school, and skulked back to the car - my hand still warm from where he had held on - I felt myself choke up with emotion and had to fight the urge to ugly cry right there and then amid the hoardes of other parents dropping their wee ones back off for the first day of term.

Of course I know that he will always be my baby - and that is especially true of a Derry son and a Derry mammy. We’ll always have that link - but there are times when I wish I could press the pause button for just a bit. Or even the rewind button to relive those moments I wished away when he was smaller.

I’m tending to take things at a slower pace with his sister. I’m tending to savour the moments more and not crave the milestones. She still, much to the horror of my health visitor and many right thinking yummy mummies has a dummy when she is tired or unwell. She still drinks her bottle of milk at bedtime. The potty training is coming along well, but part of me looks at the nappies with a certain (sick) affection and feels not ready to let go of that particular vestige of parenthood.

I’m already mentally counting down in my head to next September when I’ll hold her hand and walk her through the gates to nursery school. There is a fair chance they will need to sedate me on that day.

A friend very wisely said to me last week that while childbirth is agonising, it’s nothing compared to the pain of letting your children grow up and do their own thing independent of you. It’s a curious feeling - pride at how far they’ve come, overwhelming love, of course, and an almost uncontrollable urge to pull them back to you and hold their hands for ever.

Aged about 2

First day at Primary One, aged 4

Summer 2011, Aged 7 and a half.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Did you miss me?

It's been manic - like never before manic. The rewrites are done - the book is being typeset as we speak. Only one further step - proofreading - stands between me and publication in just over three weeks time.
It is all go.
So I'm sorry if I have not been around - but seriously, I've not even been there for my own children and blogging is not quite as top of the list of priorties as that.

Well, what can I say about the last few months... to sum them up in short phrases...

potty training
more editing
a bit more editing
realising there was more to be done
stopping the celebrating
more editing
shopping ( a little)
reading (not as much as I would like)
eating (have put on lbs in editing weight).

But I'm back... and ready to launch myself on the world again.
Did you miss me?

Friday, August 19, 2011

My lovely family...

 My niece Abby, my daddy, my sister Emma, my mum, my brother Peter , my crazy son, me and, on top my big sister Lisa
Sometimes this is all that matters. Crazy and all as they are.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Feels Like Maybe, in Norwegian

Thursday, August 04, 2011

If Only You Knew

The Blurb! At last! And lo there was great joy across the land. (Or at least in my house).

Cousins Ava Campbell (married, sensible, feeling old before her time) and Hope Scott (single, debt ridden, in love with a man who will never love her back) have nothing in common. But fate is about to throw them together.

When their beloved aunt Betty, the free spirited black sheep of the Scott family, dies in France the girls find themselves flying to the picturesque village of Saint Jeannet, tasked with sorting through her belongings and fulfilling her last wishes.

To guide them on their way, Betty has left them a series of letters detailing her own life, the heartbreak that lead her to move to France and the peace she found there with her beloved Claude

As the women find each letter, Betty's secrets are uncovered one by one with lifechanging results. Can Ava find her self confidence again? Can Hope let go of the love of her life? Can either of them ever be the same again?

If Only You Knew is a heartwarming story of secrets, love, loss, longing and purple shoes

Monday, August 01, 2011

Normal service should resume soon

I'm almost there with yet another edit.
Almost... almost.... almost.

And then, like Arnie, I will be back - until that is I realise the deadline for the next book now looms.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Random conversations with the girl

We're in the car... she's singing having only recently found her voice and enjoying experimenting with sounds and lyrics...

"Baa Baa black sheep... have you any wool? Yes Yes (she leaves out the sir... that's just how she rolls...)
three bags full.
One for the monster
One for the monster dame (I do not understand it either..)
One for the little girl who lives down the lane.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Rainy days and Mondays...

Isn't it funny, how things happen?
Just last week I started brainstorming about new ways to try and promote myself and my books and came up with a marketing idea (which will all come to light in due course). So I asked around on Facebook and Twitter for people to give me memories of their favourite Claire Allan book.
Now usually when I pose this question I get a mixed bag. There is a lot of love out there for Feels Like Maybe, It's Got to Be Perfect tends to fall second in line and Jumping in Puddles follows suit.
People don't tend to mention Rainy Days and Tuesdays and, as an author, I tend to be okay with that - thinking it was my first book. A book written before I really knew what I was doing. A book that I tend to feel a little exposed talking about because some aspects of it are based (loosely) on my own life.
But having put that little call out there the response has been almost unanimous in favour of RD&T. And it's not just "I liked this book, it was good" kind of stuff. I've had women telling me it changed their lives, it was the best book they ever read, it made them put things in perspective.

All this... from a book I wrote?
It's madness. And then I realised what RD&T lacked in artistic flair it made up for in honesty - true to life, heartfelt, emotional and messy honesty. And I should be be proud of it. The first of my "babies" to be out there in the world.
That's humbling and wonderful.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Random conversation with the girl

So tonight I'm being good and eating a low fat (chocolate muffin) dessert from M&S.
Very cute two year old sidles up to me.
"What's that?" she asks curiously.
"Mammy's chocolate mousse," I answer.
 She eyes it suspiciously. "My try some?" she asks, eyes wide and, well, who can say no. So I put some on my spoon and feed it to her. She tastes it like she is a head chef in a posh hotel checking one of her minions' offerings before looking at me and saying "Hmmmm. My like that."
"That's good, baby," I reply.
She cuddles into me, eyes on the mousse, then eyes on me. "You are my favourite, mummy."

The girl has learned the art of emotional blackmail.
I fear for the future.

Big changes are afoot

Things may have been quiet in blogland but they have certainly not be quiet in the real world. Writing has been continuing apace and, dear reader, I see light from the corners of the bunker for the first time in 10 weeks.
The book has been redrafted - and actually turned into a completely differentl kind of a book. Of the 107,000 words I wrote for the 30 Something Crisis Club, only 10,000 survived the massacre that followed. The setting remains the same. The main characters are largely the same but I added in so many layers that I made myself dizzy.
The book, as it now stands, is ready for launch in just over 10 weeks.
How's that for a turnaround? Eh?
But with the new feel, we decided on a new title and I'm now, excitedly, waiting on a new cover.
The 30 Something Crisis Club has now become If Only You Knew and I'm planning some competitions and interesting marketing ploys to mark it's release.
I feel nervous, fired up, scared, exhilerated, exhausted and relieved.
And the journey is only beginning....

Monday, July 04, 2011

A letter to my 16 year old self

As my 35th birthday last week, and I noticed a few more crow’s feet around my eyes and how certain body parts are definitely on a downward trajectory I have decided to take the lead from a recent trend online for people to write letters to their 16 -year-old selves, imparting the wisdom and advice that only comes with age.

Dear Me,

I’m sorry about the perm. I thought it was a good look at the time but clearly, looking back I realise I have made you look like an eejit. I won’t do it again. Honest. Over the years we’ll try various hair dyes and hair styles and there will be a really rather bad bleaching incident in your early 30s but I’ll never make you endure a perm again.
Now that we have that out of the way, let’s get on with the more important stuff.

1) Don’t study too hard. I know that may go against the grain, but it really is true. All work and no play will make you relatively dull. Go out more. Live a little. Enjoy yourself because the time will come when you will actually be too old to get away with walking into a nightclub without looking like a very sad cougar.

2) On the occasions you do party like it’s 1999, remember to take it easy and drink a lot of water at some stage in the evening. Never think that fifth Drambuie is a good idea. Your carpet won’t thank you for it.

3) Don’t stop dancing. I don’t mean ever, but I mean when you take those dance lessons in your mid 20s, keep at it. You were quite good at it. And you enjoyed it. It also allowed you to have a waist. You will miss you waist.
4) You know that boy you spend your entire university career pining over? He’s not worth it. In fact he turns out to be a bit of a *insert appropriate swear word which can’t be used in a family newspaper here*. And when he asks you to help him with his coursework, say no.
He isn’t actually doing it because he secretly loves you back. He’s doing it because he is too lazy to do it himself.
5) Smile more. You really do have a lovely smile.

6) See that Celine Dion phase you go through when you are 18 - don’t worry. It’s not fatal and it will pass.

7) Lycra isn’t and never will be your friend. Accept it and move on.

8) Spend more time with your grandad. He won’t always be around - I know he seems invincible but he’s not. He’ll always be a presence in your life though - so try not to worry too much. It will be tough but you’ll get through it.

9) You know that Teri Hatcher/ Lois Lane obsession you have? You’ll make it as a journalist but Dean Cain/ Clark Kent will never work in your office.
10) Stop stressing about leaving school and all your friends. You’ll stay in touch with them and you’ll be there at their weddings and to cuddle their babies and share a (legal) drink with them from time to time. If time passes where you don’t see them don’t panic. When you get together again you’ll be able to drop into easy conversation as if no time at all has passed.

11) You know that sister who gets right on your nerves? Yes. Her! The popular one? There will come a time when you stopping battering seven shades of the proverbial out of each other and become best friends. She will even be chief bridesmaid at your wedding. I know! Mad, isn’t it?

12) You know that other sister? The one that REALLY annoys you? You’ll find you have more in common with her than you think and you will share many strange and emotional moments together as you venture into motherhood. (I’m telling you now, just so you can look forward to it, there will be a day when your newborn son both pees and poops all over her. It’s okay to laugh - it’s one of the funniest things you will ever see).

13) Your parents will become your heroes again. Fact. You’ll realise how cool they are.

14) Look where you are going when you step out of cars/walk down stairs/climb over small walls. You are accident prone. Pay more attention!
15) Travel more. There’s a world outside of BT48 and you will have time enough for weekends in Donegal and breaks close to home.

16) It’s okay to want to wear comfortable shoes and a raincoat with a hood. This does not make you uncool - this makes you sensible.

17) You will get a tattoo. Yes. Really.

18) Becoming a mammy will be the most terrifying experience of your life but it will also be amazing.

19) Don’t worry when you don’t fall instantly in love with the wee creature when they lie on your tummy. It will happen and boy, when it happens, it is something else. Wow! That’s all I’m saying.

20) Yes. You’ll have a daughter some day too. And she will complete you.

21) Trust your instincts. Not with the man from university, obviously, but you know that bloke you meet at Mandi’s 21st birthday party? Give him a chance. It might just be worth it.

22) Believe in yourself. I do.
Much love, Me x

Friday, July 01, 2011

Feels like home to me

Last week the family and I went away to the Downings in north Donegal for a few days to celebrate the husband's 40th birthday. We hired a delightful house on the Atlantic coast and had three blissful days of fresh air, nice wine (three for a tenner from Asda...), good food and great company in the form of my inlaws and associated children.

I can't express how I felt in the house we stayed in. It was a gorgeous house. The kind of house I want my house to be when it grows up. It was the house of open plan living dreams  but it was the setting which took my breath away.

I've been under a lot of pressure recently, with rewrites, work, family and I suppose a kind of breakdown of sorts, but standing in Donegal, looking out of a living room window at the most spectacular yet peaceful views helped and healed.

I sound like an old hippy - but I felt I was home. Where I was meant to be. I felt this is what life is about - not the stress and the worry and the rush, but in simply looking out to see and feeling connected with everything and everything one around you. I was even moved to tears on more than one occasion as if being there had given me permission to breathe out.

When I win the Lotto (the Euromillions is a big one tonight!) I'm buying this house .... and I'm never leaving it.

Victoria Beckham - I never said she was a bad mother...

or that she didn't have her own worries.
Nor did I say my life was worse than anyone else's in the world ever. I'm pretty lucky as it happens.

ALL I said was that she is living in cloud cuckoo land if she thinks the majority of working mothers can relate to her.

It's as simple, or as complicated, as that.

Thank you.

Friday, June 17, 2011

An open letter to Victoria Beckham

Dear Victoria,

How are you? Can we have a little chat? Girl to girl? Mammy to mammy? Career woman to... erm, career woman?

First I’ll start with the nice bits. You’re looking well these days with a little bit of meat on your bones. Pregnancy agrees with you. I’ll admit I’m jealous that you seem to manage to look so glamorous with it. I never managed that - not at all. For most of my pregnancies - especially the last one I stuck with the “just getting by” look. I lived in the same three maternity outfits, swapped my heels for flats as soon as I could and used make up not to accentuate a healthy glow but more to hide a deathly palour.

You looked well at the royal wedding. I wasn’t sure about the hat, and those heels would have killed me stone dead but overall you had a nice glow about a you. A smile wouldn’t have hurt. For some reason you don’t seem to like smiling much, which is a shame. You do actually have a nice smile. And if I had David Beckham waiting for me at home I’d smile a bit more, it has to be said.

Now that we’ve covered that ground, Victoria - or can I call you Posh? - can we get down to the nitty gritty? Now much as I hate to say anything which may annoy or upset a pregnant and highly hormonal woman, Victoria last week you said something which gave me the rage. You may not know me but believe me when I have the rage, it is not a pretty sight. Not. At. All.

So there was I reading an article about you thinking “Jeezo, she looks well when she’s not all gaunt and pointy” when you made some remark about maternity leave. “Maternity leave? What’s that?” you said in a jaunty fashion adding; “Being a working mum is hard - I think women can relate to me when I say it’s like juggling glass balls.”

Being a working mum is hard work. It is really, really hard work. And yes, it is like juggling glass balls - trying to keep everything moving fluidly because if one of the balls drops there is potential for disaster.

And by disaster, Victoria, I don’t mean a run in your designer tights or a broken acrylic nail. These days, the balls most of us working parents in general have in the air include mortgage payments, guilt about ‘quality time’ with the brood, finding affordable childcare, putting petrol in the car and food on the table. It’s about trying to keep hold of a job in recessionary times while trying not to neglect your children to such an extent that they grow up to be social miscreants.

It’s about trying to find time to cram in the housework before Kim and Aggie come battering on your door and putting yourself at the bottom of the queue.

I imagine your life is different Victoria. I imagine work for you does not come with dropping the children off at school/ creche while battling through rush hour traffic and praying no one notices that you are five minutes late (again). I imagine that you can set your own hours and you have a team of nannies to help out with those essentials like feeding, clothing and entertaining your children.

I can’t imagine, pet, that any time recently you have found yourself in the unenviable position of having too much month left at the end of your money or have had sleepless nights about the crashing property market and the value of your little piece of England.

As for maternity leave - can you imagine the average working mother-to-be? She may be working in excess of 40 hours a week. She may spend a lot her time on her feet, scanning shopping through the tills at Tesco, or nursing on an NHS wage in a busy hospital. Chances are she will work as close to her due date as possible to maximise her maternity pay and the time she can spend with her baby after it is born.

Chances are she has little choice about whether or not she returns to work. Chances are she will return a little earlier than she would really like because the bills need paid and statutory maternity pay of £128.73 doesn’t go very far these days.

Chances are by the time her baby comes along she is exhausted and needing some time to rest. Chances are she won’t have a team of night nurses to help her through the early months and wouldn’t be fit to try and combine caring for an infant with a full time job.

When you say that the modern working mother can relate to you, I have to ask - how exactly? Last time I looked I didn’t have fancy homes in foreign countries. I didn’t get an invite to the royal wedding. Justine Beiber does not send my children gifts of signed guitars (for this alone, I am entirely grateful). I don’t have a wardrobe of designer clothes or a host of A list friends.

I know you were coming from a “let’s all be friends” and “aren’t we all in this together” perspective but Victoria, pet, please accept that we so never going to be all in this together. Please stop trying to make out you are a mere pleb like the rest of us and give us working mammies, who really do have all those glass balls in the air, a bit of credit.

Much love,


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

A Note from the Bunker

Dear Writer
Never lose the fire in your belly. Dampen it down a wee bit for a while, if you need to, so you can get some sleep. But never lose it.

Write every book as if it were your first. Ignore whether or not you have an agent, a publisher or an established readership. Write as if you trying to make people sit up and take notice for the first time.

Forget your past books, the published ones, the unpublished ones. You, right now, in this moment are only as good as the book are you are currently writing.

Enjoy it. Please. If you are not enjoying it, the reader won't either. If you are not enjoying it, then really, what's the point? Writing should always be about the passion for creating a whole new world (yes... I'm singing the song from Aladdin now) and not just about getting words on a page.

Of course you do have to get the words on a page. So just do it. Don't procrastinate. Don't allow the negative voice on your shoulder to drown out the lovely voices of your characters.

FORGET SALES. They do not matter. Do you want a book which sells millions or do you want a book which you can put your hand on your heart and say you LOVE and are proud of? Yes... I know what your gut reaction is but think about that. Really. (Of course, never shun a blissful combination of the two, or believe it will never happen to you).

Don't diss your genre. Even to your self, on a bad day when you have written a line about a heroine drinking of a glass of wine and admiring shoes. The shoes and the wine are not what your books are about. Look deeper. You are not writing "only chick lit". You are touching lives.

If you have them, read the letters/ emails you have readers/ agents/ publishers/ your mammy which say nice things about your work. Especially remember that conversation you had with the woman in WeightWatchers who told you that your books got her through a particularly bleak period in her life (that one may be solely directed at me).

Limit your use of the bad F word. Feck is, of course, entirely acceptable. But don't go overboard with that either. Unless you are writing an episode of Father Ted.

Give yourself the time to write. Accept that books can not be written in five minute snippets while trying to entertain the children/ do the washing/ clean the house. Lock yourself away for a bit each evening - even half an hour - and write without distraction. Your writing is GOOD. It deserves your attention. YOU deserve the time to explore your own talent.

DON'T let outside forces drag you down. Don't think about the bigger picture. The bigger picture, like your addiction to chocolate, is beyond your control. Feck it. Focus on the picture in front of you - the one you are drawing right now.

Believe in yourself. Allow yourself to feel your words. Cry when your characters cry. Laugh when they laugh. Bonk when they bonk. (Then accept that bonk is a very silly word and vow never to use it again).

Accept that writing is a gift - a talent, an escape. Allow it be just that. Don't let it bog you down. There is enough in this world to bog you down as it is.

Smile. Read those emails again. Switch your laptop off when your toddler looks for a cuddle. Remember that creating lives for other people is great fun altogether but living your own life is more important.

Be proud of all you do - on the page and off.

Still in the bunker

Still writing... it's like NANO times 2. Forget 50,000 in a month, I've a target of 110,00 in two months.
The more I write, the more the book is morphing into something different. The large swathes of text I hoped I would be able to use from the first draft are staring at me, redundant and fed up.
I am starting to see words swimming in front of each other - and I can think of little else. My mind is constantly in France. It is constantly plotting and worrying about pacing and twists and turns and hoping for the best.
This is a LONG, HARD ROAD.

Monday, June 06, 2011

So last week I wrote...

And I decorated - kind of in an avoidance of the writing kind of a way.
We redid the baby's room (I say baby, I know she is two and three months. I know I am in denial of that fact. The dummy/ nappy police will be battering at my door soon enough over the head of it) - which especially now that it is freshly painted is my favourite room in the house.
How I love the vintage Cath Kidston-esque inspired patterns on the curtains and the wall hangings and the bunting. I could go into raptures about the bunting because, yes, I am that sad.
Her room is small, but perfectly formed and I have indulged every girly fantasy I've ever had with pink throws and spotty lamps and a wee doll's cot to match her own cot.
A white table lamp which I bought for about £15 years ago is one of my favourite pieces and I re-glossed it to give it a bit of a shimmer and now I could happily sit in the room for hours.
The girl took umbrage at her room being out of bounds for two days while we painted and tidied. "My bedroom is all broken," she would tell anyone who would listen in her lisping tones. "But my daddy is fixing it all up".
Mammy helped too. Honest.  Even though she should have been writing.

Monday, May 30, 2011

You know it's working when it makes you cry

I was writing the latest book last night - as part of the mega in-the-bunker rewrite - and I reached a point where it clicked.
It does that some times... writing. It just clicks. I had sat down to write that particular scene several times over the last few days and just couldn't find the right words so last night I sat down and said I wouldn't move until it was done. It was a short scene - a letter in fact - but it felt like an enormous hurdle because it had to be just right.

So anyway, I sat and I wrote, and those 300 words took about an hour and a half and by the end I was crying because the woman who wrote the letter (Betty) seemed so very real and my heart actually ached for her.

Does that sound mad? Does that sound as if I am finally losing the plot? Those who don't write don't always get how our characters can become as real to us during the writing process as if they were sitting in the same room.
There are characters from past books who have never left me. I wonder how Daisy is getting on? Did she and Dr. Dishy get their happy ending? Did Grace have another baby? Are Beth and Dan deliriously happy with baby Lucas? Are Aoife and Tom Austin now sitting in their yardin drinking a cold glass of wine while Maggie watches CBeebies in the house?
I wonder how Detta is, and Ruth and Ciara. I wonder did Ciara get the great job she dreamed of?  And I wonder how Darcy is doing... where her problems resolved?

You see, all these people they live in our heads while we are writing them - while we are shaping their lives and their thoughts and their actions that you can't just switch off.

And I don't think I'll ever forget Betty.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It's the perfect week

So this week It's Got to Be Perfect hits the shelves in paperback. It's a lovely book - honest. Funny, a bit risque in places, ultimately about friendship and the goals we set ourselves in life. It has a fabulous pair of pink bridal shoes and a gorgeous bridesmaid dress. And a VERY hairy man.
It also deals with step parents, and wannabe parents and scared they are never gonna be parents...
It's the most traditional "chick lit" book if I've written (if we are to put labels on things) and it was a book I absolutely loved writing. Perhaps that doesn't sell it to you... my own review of my own book. It's a bit like asking a mother to critically assess her own child.

Woman's Way did say it "really is like a hug in a book" - so that's something...

But here it is... with a gorgeous blue, summery cover and I hope you like it. And share that you like it with your friends. And if you don't like it - just keep it to yourselves, or maybe even tell a wee white lie that you did. G'wan. Just for me.

Anyway - it's released from its current resting place in a Baldoyle industrial estate on Thursday and over the next week or two will be distributed to Eason, Tesco, Hughes & Hughes, Amazon and all wonderful independent book shops everywhere.

I thank you.

Friday, May 20, 2011

In the bunker

Right now I'm in the middle of pretty intensive edits of my fifth book 'The 30 Something Crisis Club' which is due out in September.
With a tight deadline and a determination to make this the best book I have written to date, this has become the most intense writing experience of my life.
I feel as if I should be holed away in a bunker sitting in front of a dozen computer screens all containing various versions of the work in progress which I glance between while swivelling on a very swivelly chair. There should be silence. And darkness. And a wee hatch which opens every now and again to allow in a fresh supply of wine and chocolate. If I smoked I would imagine I would be chain smoking through this entire experience.
Instead, however, life has to go on as normal around this mega writing fest. The full time job still needs the attention a full time job requires and my children still require the care and affection of their mother. The dishes still need washed and the toilet still needs cleaned and Tesco still needs visited once a week for supply buying purposes.

Instead of my darkened room I write on the sofa. Or at my desk in work at lunchtime. I write to a soundtrack of Fifa 11 on the DS (thanks to the boy) or Mr Tumble on the telly (thanks for the girl). I take nappy changing breaks, and baking buns with the girl breaks and driving the boy to football practice breaks.
I have a constant inner dialogue between a case of characters running in my head - which is both slightly schizophrenic in nature but also slightly exhilerating. I spent more time with my laptop than my husband. I can hold no conversation which does not include the words "edits" "book" or "gah" in them.

In the last three weeks I have written 25,000 words in my "spare" time. I am both buzzing at the thrill of an increasing word count and exhausted with the effort of it.

But this morning I sent the first 25,000 words to my agent who responded with a triple "Love it" declaration... so hopefully, just hopefully, I'm doing something just right.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Random conversations with the Girl - Part 2

So we're in the car and she's chattering.

C: "Mammy, my go to the doctors"
Me: "Really?"
C: "Yes. My go to the doctors."
Me: "Oh dear. What's wrong?"
C: "I'm a just a bit sad."

She's 26 months old.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Did you ever get one of those days?

You know that saying you see on novelty signs hung in taxi offices and Chinese Takeaways and the like "Good morning, Let the Stress Begin"

well today has been one of those mornings.

First of all I was woken from a lovely dream where I was Kate Middleton and was stinking rich and planning a wedding.Then I went downstairs to find the baked ratatouille I had prepared last night had disinigrated into a wee dish I like to call "smelly mulch" and had to be binned before I took a dose of the mad bokes. Then on the school run we were held up by a burned out bus smouldering its acrid, toxic smoke all over us.

Work, when I arrived, has been "interesting" - and by "interesting" I mean - stressful.

BUT, instead of falling down under it I'm going to accentuate the positive with

  • Singing in a choir - which is remarkable given my lack of musical talent but there really is safety in numbers and the craic is good.
  • My increasingly snuggly big boy who, despite being seven, still loves his mammy.
  • My increasingly funny wee girl - who this morning listened to my singing and said "I like that song mammy. Again!" which I don't think anyone has ever said before, ever, in connection with my singing.
  • Last night's episode of Glee in which Mr Schuester was looking particularly handsome. This makes me shallow but shallow works for me right now.
  • The 3lbs which I managed to lose last week - go me!
  • The 21,000 words of edits I've managed to do in the last three weeks which I, personally, think makes this book the best I've ever written.
  • The plans I am making to have my hall and landing painted which, given that the walls currently look like an aftershot from a dirty protest is a very good thing indeed.
  • I'm on my holidays soon!!! Whoop Whoop! Of course I'm holidaying in my house, editing the book, but I berluddy can't wait all the same.
  • It's my tenth wedding anniversary next week and we've not killed each other yet!
  • You, lovely readers, for being lovely.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Wigs and fake tans? Not for my girl

As the mother of a young daughter there is a fear, deep rooted in my heart that one day she will turn to me - big blue eyes shining - and say “Mammy, can I do Irish dancing?”

It’s not that I object to our national dance and I certainly don’t object to her learning how to do it. My fear, dear reader, lies completely and totally with the all encompassing culture that comes with it.

From the dresses, the wigs, the fake tans, the made up faces - there is so much about Irish dancing that screams to me that we have taken a beautiful form of dance and exploited it to a grotesque level. (I will write the rest of this column hidden under my desk awaiting the barrage of abuse from Feis mammies and dance teachers alike).

Not that long ago I watched ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ - which is a programme shown on Sky about the American beauty pageants. Children from newborns are up and carted around the States, primped and preened, taught to perform, leggered in fake tan and put on stage to impress the judges.

The programme had me cringing. I felt for the wee critters who so desperately wanted to win.

I felt horrified at how they were dressed up like mini adults in their ballgowns and wigs, with tiaras and extravagant hair pieces.

I doubt many of us will forget the images of little JonBenet Ramsey - the six year-old beauty queen who was murdered at her home in 1996. Dressed in clothes more befitting of a Las Vegas show girl, with hair teased and tossed like an extra from Dynasty - it all looked so wrong.

Watching ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’ I wondered what kind of childhood these youngsters must have to spend their weekends and holidays competing and practising and trying to impress people constantly. This is no lifestyle of an occasional competition in between running about playing and having the craic with their friends. This was full on obsessive competing. At first I sagged with relief that we didn’t do that kind of thing here in Ireland. Sure we let our wains be wains, I told myself.

And then the Feis came to town again and I was reminded, by the smiling pictures of bewigged, fake-tanned, grinning dancers that maybe we do have our very own version of the American pageants. Irish dancing may be intrinsically linked with our culture and heritage but, let’s be honest, the culture which has grown around it in recent years most certainly is not.

I would have a blue canary if my daughter asked me to buy her dress at the cost of hundreds to dance in (and from what I hear ‘hundreds’ is a conservative estimate). She has natural, beautiful curls herself. If she asked me to buy a mammoth wig at a mammoth cost to make her ‘look better’ she’d get short shrift.

If she wanted clattered in fake tan I would tell her to catch herself on and come back to me when she is 16... or 30... or some altogether more suitable age for wearing make up and Fake Bake.

Children, from no age, are traipsed around the country and further afield where they dress up and dance and look for that same approval from their peers. Entire childhoods, it seems, are caught up in this Feis, or that championship and who has the nicest (read that as ‘most expensive’) dress or biggest wig.

For those who think I have a problem with competition I do not. Competition can be healthy. Our children, of course, have to learn that sometimes they will win and sometimes they will lose. But as is the case with the American pageants - sometimes it feels to me as if not enough credit is given to our young people for just “doing their best”.

Hobbies are, of course, to be welcomed. We hear a lot, again, in this city about young people and anti-social behaviour and how we should have alternative activities available for our children. This I welcome wholeheartedly - but does it have to be so over the top?

Can we not just have girls in simple dresses dancing? Can we not just show off their natural, youthful beauty and their natural curls? Can we not calm down on the competitive element and allow it to be more about having fun and getting some exercise and embracing our heritage?

We don’t need the fuss. We don’t need the obsession.

We absolutely and catagorically do not need to dress our little girls up like glorified Barbie dolls (and believe me I’m not even getting started on the hip hop dancers and their costumes because I wouldn’t know where to stop)?

The beauty should be in the dance - in the natural movement of the girls dancing and displaying their technical skills. It shouldn’t be in ornate dresses and overdone make up.

And while we are letting our girls look natural, can we let them act naturally as little girls do as well?

Let them play and have fun and, if they want to, let them take part in the odd competition.

Above all this remind them time and time again that doing their best is more than good enough and that they are successful just as they are.

Monday, May 02, 2011

No bravado... but trying again

Every few months I write a blog post and thus follows a few months of "yay, go me! I'm losing weight" posts.
I may, or may not, post a wee sidebar to this blog detailing the pounds dropping.
There may be before and during photos.
I will inevitably at some stage say "I feel as if I'm really, really going to do it this time."

This time I'm not going in with that bravado.
But I am going in.
I need to lose weight. I am, thankfully at least, still 11lbs lighter than my heaviest non pregnant weight. I am, however, erm, four stone heavier than my lightest adult weight.
Disgusting, isn't it?

Now there are certain mitigating factors

  1. I've had two babies - therefore two pregnancies have taken their toll.
  2. For the last 10 years, until very recently, I've been taking SSRIs (antidepressants) which can increase your appetite and make losing weight more difficult.
  3. I have also, due to vertigo/ migraines etc been taking other appetite increasing medication on and off.
  4. I am a gorb who loves food.
Now, if I could get a food replacement patch to stick on my skin, I would. If I could buy a wee inhaler yoke, or an electric chocolate bar which gives the same high as those electric cigarette doodahs then I would. If there was a "gorb yerself" replacement chewing gum or lozenge, I'd give it a go. If there was a Gorbing Cessation Clinic, I'd go along... but there isn't you see.
The fact is I have to eat. It's not like giving up smoking where you can survive without it. Sure the withdrawal is shite and it takes a lot of willpower but you don't need to have have a wee puff three or four times a day just to keep alive.
I have, in recent weeks considered many options. Stomach stapling. Lighter Life. The Cambridge Diet. Dukan. Gastric Banding. Celebrity Slim. WeightWatchers and Slimming World.
I should say that I believe most of these work - whether or not I think all of them are good for you is another issue. WeightWatchers is definitely a winner on all counts with me - but I just can't face it at the moment - the pointing, and the calculators and the working your life so you (meaning me) can spend more of my 'party points' on wine.
So I'm going back to a GI approach, which worked wonders for me in the past.
We shall see. I'm not expecting wonders this time. I do not dare to hope that this time I will do it. But I will try, one day at a time - one hour at a time if necessary. I am definitely looking at things one lb at a time.
So, three days in, I'm trying and there will be no bravado this time - just the odd mention of how I'm finding it.
And if I find it works, I'll be sure to let you know.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A nice day for a Royal Wedding

It’s been everywhere this week - talk of the ‘big do’ when Prince William finally marries his commoner girlfriend Kate Middleton.

Our TV has been filled with documentaries and news items. Our newspapers have been filled with articles on everything from who else is getting married today to what dress Kate will wear. (There has been an inordinate number of articles published brandishing ‘Exclusive’ banners declaring that they have an idea, possibly, of what Kate’s dress just might, maybe, look like without actually knowing a damn thing about any of it.) Several fairly dodgy songs have been written.

A plethora of tat has been released with a royal wedding theme. On Sunday I even saw some royal wedding dummies on sale, with teeny Union Jacks brandished across them declaring either Prince or Princess depending on the gender of your little royalist.

T-shirts have sprung up for aspiring little girls declaring they are princesses in waiting. Tea towel production is overload. A clatter of tacky embellished china is on sale right now not to mention the replica royal wedding toys.

The world, it seems, has gone a little bit mad for Big Willy (as Kate apparantly lovingly calls him) and Waity Katie (as is her nickname).

And while the tat mongers have me thinking the world has lost their sanity, there is a part of me which is, ultimately, very interested in the whole shebang.

I’d like to pretend I was above it all. I’d like to pretend that secretly the whole thing disgusts me from the money spent, to the tacky memorabilia to the gradiose pomp and ceremony of a British royal’s wedding.

But at heart, this much is true. I’m a girly girl who likes to believe in happy endings and who likes to see princesses wearing very fancy gowns and tiaras. I like to believe in fairytales. I’m aware that in many people’s eyes this makes me a sad case. I’m also aware that boy meets girl at university and the pair fall in love after she wears a see through dress is not exactly the most exciting fairytale in the world - but I’ll enjoy it for what it is.

I’ll push my reservations aside and employ my wilful suspension of disbelief - and get caught up in the romance of the day.

I’ll not worry about whether or not their forever after really is a forever after. I’ll try not to think of the ridiculous cost of it.

I’ll not even worry that maybe we people in certain parts of this country are supposed to be opposed, in principle, to anything remotely related to the British monarchy.

I’ll just concentrate on the spectacle of it all and watch it with the same fascination as I would a wedding unfolding on my street or in the nearest chapel.

I’ll judge whether or not her dress suits her. Is her hair nice? Should she have chosen a different veil or head dress? The bridesmaid dresses will be scrutinised to within an inch of their lives.

I’ll look to see what the mother of the bride is wearing, as well as the mother of the groom.

I’ll try and see if Wills looks nervous as he watches his bride walk towards him. Will Kate cry? (I’m betting she won’t. Commoner or not, a certain level of decorum will have to be observed).

I’ll watch and see if they stumble over their vows.

Will Camilla dab at her eyes with a hankie? Will they make mention of Diana and her untimely death?

Will they snog when they are pronounced husband and wife (or prince and princess)? Or will there be a refined peck on the cheek?

Nosiness will be have me watching to see them wave from the balcony at Buckingham Palace just to gauge whether or not they look really happy.

I’ll be secretly gutted the cameras won’t follow them on to the reception. I’d quite to see if anyone smuggles in a wee quarter bottle in their handbag.

Will anyone ask for chips instead of mashed potatoes and shame themselves?

It would nice to see one of the lesser known royals get scuttered and try and distract attention from the happy couple by sobbing into the wedding cake - or indeed it would be nice to what the first dance will be. (‘The Power of Love’ or ‘Flying Without Wings’ perhaps?)

Will they dance uproariously to ‘Sweet Caroline’ punching the air and shouting “so good, so good, so good” at the appropriate times?

Or will it all be terribly, terribly refined? I imagine, with a certain disappointment, that it will be.

There will be no ‘Rock the Boat’ with the Queen falling over herself and trying to protect her modesty. Sadly.

But maybe, there will be a happy ending. Maybe it will give us all a distraction from the seemingly endless bad news doing the rounds at the moment?

Maybe we will get to ogle at a pretty dress, and marvel at the spectacle of it and, if we are that way inclined, buy some wedding related tat.

I’m after a Big Willy teatowel myself.

Monday, April 25, 2011

This is the first time I can do this one...

Random conversations with the Girl (aged 25 months).

She ran to the window, with the enthusiasm typical of a two year and glanced at the grass across the street from our house.

"Mammy," she chirped. "look at the fluffy daisies!"

It took me a while to figure out she meant dandelion clocks.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

You just don't do it again....

I read this article in the Daily Mail (I know... I know...) today and instantly I felt angry, and sad, and concerned and  I suppose bereaved a little bit.

This article is about a woman who has hyperemesis - not morning sickness - but hyperemesis. Surprisingly I would say the majority of people, even women, don't know what Hyperemesis (Also known as HG) is. It's not morning sickness - it's not cured with a ginger nut biscuit, or a Rich Tea (but thanks for offering). It's full on.It's vomiting multiple times a day. It's feeling nauseous. It's vomiting blood because your innards are in shreds. It's dehydration. It's weakness. It's feeling like you have a parasite inside you and not being able to fully appreciate the baby you are growing. It's horrendous. It makes you have horrible thoughts. It drove me to the brink... it's NOT MORNING SICKNESS

Readers of the blog will know I suffered from HG when I was pregnant with Cara. And I'll be the first to put my hand up and say my condition was pretty low end compared to some people. I had one three day hospitalisation. I took daily medication. I threw up every day. In one week I lost 11lbs through dehydration alone. And that was at the lower end of the HG spectrum.

While all that was going on I had to work, I had to care for my then four year old (who became so used to his mammy being sick he would rub my back for me). I had to try and keep my sanity. What I put my husband through in those nine months was horrendous and I'm amazed he didn't walk out. I cried. I suffered panic attacks. I prayed for an early delivery even though it would have been harder for my baby. When a msicarriage threatened earlier on I spent a good amount of time wondering if it would be a good thing because this was the most horrible physical and emotional experience of my life.

When my daughter was born, (five days early, mercifully) she was healthy as could be. I stopped being sick as soon as she was delivered (after throwing up violently throughout her delivery). I still feel physically sick whenever I'm anxious. It takes very little now to make me ill but we are both fine and happy and I'm a very contented mammy. She was worth it.

But would I do it again? Not a chance. My pregnancy and HG is the primary reasons I will never have any more children. Even if I won the Lotto and could afford to be at home and raise them all in a luxurious, yummy mummy fashion (my other stumbling blocks to motherhood) I wouldn't do it.
I could not put myself through it. I could not put my husband through it. Or my children. Or my family. I could not countenance ever willingly doing that it myself or any of us again - so I won't.

Do I grieve over that decision? Some times. Generally speaking I feel done. I feel lucky. I have two healthy children - one of each flavour -and they are a delight to me. Some times though I get that urge - that maternal feeling - that urge to hold my own baby. The biggest high I ever had in my life was when my daughter was put on my chest after a wonderful delivery. I'd love to relive that moment.
But I cannot relive the 9 months which preceded it. Still, I am grieving for the glowing pregnancy I never had. My first pregnancy was marred with antenatal depression and I was determined to enjoy the second... well, that never happened.

I could never risk it again. And I don't understand how the lady in the article can keep going, with two terminations under her belt, knowing what the risks are. Some times the best decision is to just stop - you don't do it again. I hope she finds the peace to make that decision herself.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hauling out the big guns

There comes a time when you sit, a manuscript in front of you... a year or more of blood, sweat, tears, hope and dreams and you realise it's time to go in with the big guns.

Yes, my friends - welcome to editing hell. The truth being I have taken agin my latest book. And I want to make it much better. And I NEED to make it much better because I'm five books into this writing toot and it's coming close to that "sh*t or get off the pot" moment where you (being I) have to think about your work/ life balance and how much you actually get from writing (emotionally, intellectually, spiritually) and if you are good enough to do it for a living.

I made a promise to myself at the start of this year that in 2011 I would give my heart and soul to writing. I would do whatever it could to make this work. (Bearing in mind that making this work is largely out of my hands. I write the books - someone else chooses a cover, publishes it and markets it. Other people will review it. Booksellers will decided whether or not to stock it. Readers will decide whether or not buy it. Lucky breaks may, or may not, come my way).

So anything I write from now has to be something I'm 100% happy with - that I can stand over and say "this is who I am and if it doesn't work then I'll know I've given it my all".

The 30 Something Crisis Club will be that book.

So it's big guns time. Time to not so much "kill my darlings" as massacre them.

Wish me luck.

Friday, April 15, 2011

That's what little girls are made of

Standing in the kitchen on Saturday I listened to the toddler playing in the garden. It was a lovely sunny day and I had hauled her playhouse outside and set her up with her tea-set and dollies while I went about sorting washing and cleaning as I watched her.
She sat there, like the delicate little flower she is and invited her cousins (who weren’t actually there) in for tea. “Darcy, come in for tea,” she sing -songed before inviting Ethan (pronoucned Yee-than) and granny in too. She mimicked the sound of the doorbell and declared it was a tea party and chattered on to herself clearly pleased with her gathering of her imaginary friends.
I stood and listened, wondering how on earth she had reached such a stage where she could blether on so contentedly to herself and I marvelled at her imagination.
There was no trace of a toy digger or a racing car around. This was girly heaven. A pink play house. A blanket on the ground and a pretend tea party. With her hair in bunches and her frilly party dress on she looked as if butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth.
It was about that stage that she started singing a song - or more accurately a chant - which culminated in a loud and vociferous shout of “City!” in a voice that sounded more like a 14 year old boys than a two year girl formerly referred to as the princess.
It seems my girly-girl may be finding her inner tomboy. This is something I’m not familiar with. I wasn’t in the least bit tomboy-ish in my childhood unless you count the occasional playing with Star Wars figures, but that was more connected with my childhood crush on Luke Skywalker than anything else. (In my adult years I have learned that Luke Skywalker so wasn’t worth the love and affection I held for him. Give me a rugged Han Solo any day).
I wasn’t one for climbing trees. I didn’t kick a football about or even feign an interest in it. I was more interested in being a very stereotypical little girl and playing with doll houses and Barbies and occasionally at pretending to be a popstar.
So it was quite a shock to hear a shout, in deep, rumbling tones from the baby girl in the garden a chant of “City!”.
I know of course that the chant came from her adoration of her big brother, who had returned from the victorious Derry match the night before high as a kite and has not stopped chanting since, but it made me realise that she is going to be her own wee person. That thought fills me in equal measure with pride and fear.
I have always been prepared for the moment my son would come home from school and declare an allegiance to a football team. I think I did quite well that we got to primary 3 before the full on obsession kicked in. I had always known though that before then we were on borrowed time - and I made my peace with that.
Now I have accepted that when he isn’t playing football he is talking about it. When he isn’t talking about it, he is watching it on the TV. (Sky Sports is the bane of my life). When he isn’t watching it on TV he is playing football related games on his DS.
To get him to dress in anything other than football gear is a struggle. Special occasions which require something a little smarter to be worn have to be planned well in advance with a stealth bribing plan put into action.
My life is spent in a state of fear that my back windows will come crashing in around me as football hits them at the speed of light.
This is what comes with being the mammy of a young boy and I have made my peace with that.
I thought my payback for that would be, well, sugar and spice and all things nice when my little girl arrived. I admit, and the anti gender stereotyping people may well jump on my back for this, that I probably played up to this.
My baby girl arrived in a hail of pink. I have delighted, ecstatically so, in buying dresses and bobbles, stripey tights and numerous pairs of teeny, tiny shoes.
I have delighted in going shopping with her, in baking with her, in playing together. A week ago I spent an inordinate amount of time mock potty training a Tiny Tears. (A two year old is, it seems, enthralled by a doll that pees).
I have been as happy as I have ever been, in our wee world together. And then she became a football hooligan overnight. Alomg with the chants she has taken to carrying Peppa Pig ball around like it is the most precious thing in the world and shouting “goal” when she pelts it towards the wall at great speed.
She will stand in her brother’s nets and bob and weave like a mini keeper in the making and has even perfected her own dance for when she scores a goal. She will sit by his side as he plays his computer games and mimick his cheers and his commentary.
I am waiting for the day she shuns her frilly dresses in favour of a football kit.
It seems having a little girl is not quite as frilly and flouncy as I had imagined - but at least I can console myself with the fact she’ll be able to stand her ground firmly wherever she is.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

And writing.... and writing... and writing...

Well, the writing is going well but all encompassing.
Am delighted to say book 6 - with a very provisional title of 'What Becomes of the Broken Hearted?' is powering along nicely - 10,000 words have almost magically floated onto the screen and not once I have been tempted to tear my hair out.
It's set in a wedding dress shop - a gorgeous place with real wooden floors, sash windows and bright white walls - and a court yard! The court yard is very important! I'm creating two very feisty and strong characters - Kitty, the shop owner, and Erin a blushing bride to be who has always been heart set against weddings...

Book five, which should be called The 30 Something Crisis Club is still with the publishers and still awaiting the official thumbs up. As with all books, now that it is gone out of my control I feel the need to write new scenes in. I have become semi obsessed with writing a scene about a peg bucket.... that's how exciting my life is!
It should be in the shops in October - just in time for the Christmas market and my annual "new book out breakdown" - which is one of the many breakdowns I have in the average year.

It's Got to be Perfect will hit the shelves in paperback at the start of June. (See the pretty cover!) At the moment I'm very busy trying to gather together some publicity, breathe new life into it and remind myself what it is all about. (With two more books on the go since and two more casts of characters I have to admit that sometimes I struggle to remember character names. That said there are days now when I struggle to remember my children's names...and my own name for that matter.)

Writing aside, at the moment things are in a bit of a lull. The Eason event was amazing - I'm still floating from it. But now it's time to move on to the next thing - booking the next launch/ appearance and possibly some City of Culture events.
I also seem to be spending an inordinate amount of time doing primary three level homework. Ain't parenthood grand?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

I never thought I would potty train a Tiny Tears

Cara feeding 'Baby Cara'
before the cries for "pee pees"
went up

The baby (now officially two and a toddler) has started to take a very slight interest in all matters toilet related. She has decided the most fascinating thing in the world is to look at her soiled nappies before they are deposited in the bin and has started talking about the potty and the toilet.
On Sunday she asked to change her dolly's nappy (the dolly is a Tiny Tears, bought out of sheer nostalgia) and then almost went into orbit with excitement at the revelation dolly - now known as 'Baby Cara' - has a potty all of her own and actually, if you give her a drink - she pees.

"Make dolly pee pee" was the cry as I filled the tiny toy bottle (sorry breastfeeders!) and allowed Cara to feed her baby Cara some water. Then it was a matter of tipping the doll in the right direction as quickly as possible and watch for the trickle of water from her nether regions into a small pink potty.
I have to say there were a couple of accidents. I don't think 'Baby Cara' is quite ready for big girl pants just yet. And mopping up the trickles of pretend pee from around the living room, I'm not sure I'm ready for the real Cara to give it a go either.

Friday, April 01, 2011

I have in my hand a piece of paper..

It's a Post It Note... with Cathy Kelly's email address written on it - by her very own hand!!
I may frame it.

I'm very tired... it has been a long few days but here are my key points about the event that was the Eason Celebration of Women's Fiction.

  • Patricia Scanlan is very lovely indeed and didn't laugh when I told her I wanted to be Devlin and run my own City Woman.
  • Sheila O'Flanagan knows her stuff. She's lovely - very forthcoming with advice and encouragement and refreshingly still as nervous when she sends a book as the rest of us mere mortals.
  • Melissa Hill has fabulous shoes and is just gorgeous and lovely  and exceptionally friendly.
  • Anna McPartlin is a ride. I mean, not that I did or anything... but she is just vibrant and funny and lovely (not to mention talented) that I may have a bit of a (non lesbian) crush on her.
  • Emma Hannigan is impossibly glam and very (must not say lovely.. there may be a lovely overload going on here) very nice (but nice is an awful word isn't it? Like "fine"... no one wants to be nice.) Okay, so I'll say she is a babe.
  • Cathy Kelly is impossibly wee but an absolute dote who said hello to me as if she really meant it and we had a nice (too short) chat and I babbled a lot about her being THE Cathy Kelly which in fairness I think she already knew.
  • Marisa Mackle is very glam. I could hate her. Except she was that word I've already used too much.
Oh there is so much more to write, but it was great and thanks to Eason for arranging it and for Shirley Benton and Clodagh Murphy for holding my hand.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Random conversations with the boy - be careful what you ask

The boy's homework last night was to write about my hobbies - obviously on a Mother's Day kind of theme.

So the boy rambled on about writing books, and singing in the choir and we were having a lovely conversation where he said one of my favourite things was being his best friend.

Buoyed by this sense of confidence I decided I push things one step further which I should have known was a bad move.

"So I'm a good mummy then?" I ask. (Needy? Moi? Yep!)

"Oh yes mummy. The best."

"So, if you could choose a mummy out of all the mummies in the entire world, who would you pick?"

He paused. Thought about it for a while and replied with a very serious face. "I think I'd choose an Egyptian mummy. That would be really interesting."

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Random conversations with the boy

So the weekend my father took it on himself to tell Joseph a story about a wee boy he knew who had been gifted a football signed by the entire Chelsea team by a businessman who had heard the wee boy was sad and wanted to cheer him up. The wee boy was said because he had recently lost a friend in tragic circumstances.

Joseph thought this through for a while, and paused, "Well if anything happened to *insert name of best friend* here, it would cheer me up to get a signed Liverpool ball. That would make me happy."

I may need to tell the friend in question to watch his back.

I'm off to the see Wizard (well, not actually the wizard)

Oh readers, I am very excited. More excited than a grown woman should be perhaps... but excited all the same.
On Thursday I will be travelling to Dublin (ON. MY. OWN. aka NO. KIDS) to
  • Meet with some lovely writerly friends for drinks and dinner
  • Stay in a hotel on my lone (as Joseph would say) and have a bed all to my self.
  • To get dressed up in nice clothes, with make up and everything (Can you tell I really don't get out much?)
  • And...wait for it... to meet a whole big pile of writers who have inspired, entertained, mentored me over a very long time indeed.
Among those writers will be Patricia Scanlan. Her City Girls was the first Poolbeg book I ever bought with my very own money! (When I was around 15, from memory). I wanted to be Devlin. I wanted the blonde bob and the chain of spas and the hunky man and basically, well, everything she had (apart from tragic early Ballymun years).
The City Girls trilogy shaped my teenage years and I may well faint/boke/ talk rubbish when face to face with the actual Patricia Scanlan.

Similarly Sheila O'Flanagan AND Cathy Kelly will be there. And I know i'm going to meet them because they said so and honestly I took weak for about half an hour afterwards because these ladies were my 20s.

A host of other writers will also be there including Melissa Hill, Ciara Geraghty, Emma Hannigan, Shirley Benton, Clodagh Murphy and many others and I'm excited about that too. In fact very excited.

And there is just such a lovely buzz about the whole event that it feels like it will be something very special indeed.

I promise to post pictures!

Friday, March 18, 2011

God save us from zealots

Of all the images which have haunted me since the earthquake and tsunami rocked Japan last week, the one I have found most poignant is that of a child - no older than two or three - standing, his arms raised over his head - being scanned for radiation poisoning by a man in scary white suit and mask.

I’ve thought about that child a lot - and about the other children in Japan - and of the fear they must be feeling. And I’ve thought about his mother and father and how they must feel helpless and, perhaps, increasingly desperate as the mixed messages about meltdowns, and radiation leaks and contamination circulate.

We cannot, in this city, really begin to understand the scale of the disaster which has hit Japan and I will be the first to put my hand up and say that, utterly selfishly, there have been times when I have switched the TV off, or clicked off an online newsfeed or turned the radio over when a report has come on.

It’s not that I don’t care - far from it - it is just that my brain cannot comprehend the level of destruction and loss being played out on the tv. It’s too much and it’s too painful and yes, it is too scary.

Part of me too wants to protect my children from it. Perhaps that is foolish - but as the mother of a child with a particularly overactive imagination and curious fascination with natural catastrophies - I felt it best to save him from the worry.

To first hear the news of an earthquake hitting, and to hear follow up reports of a devastating tsunami washing away entire towns, entire communities and entire families was terrifying enough.

To have that followed up with talks of nuclear meltdown, radiation clouds and scenes reminiscent of Hiroshima was beyond comprehension.

The deathtoll as I write is in the thousands and rising and there is grisly talk of thousands of bodies being washed up on the drowned beaches of Japan as things settle.

There is fear of another earthquake, perhaps smaller but still large enough to be devastating and there is of course the worry of what any nuclear fall out may entail.

While the world has been struggling to come to terms with what has happened one so-called Christian has posted a message on internet site YouTube praising God for bringing such destruction on the world.

‘TamTamPamela’, who has sinced claimed she was only joking, posted a lengthy message in which she said she had been praying for God to punish atheists and show the world that He existed.

She said it was “amazing” how He had shook Japan to show them that He was there and that the death of thousands of people was proof of what a loving and powerful God we have over us. She was almost ecstatic with the joy of it all.

Now, I won’t proclaim to be the most religious of people. Generally I’ll leave all talk of God and His works to Father Chris in the column below, but I watched the video and I felt sick. It felt at complete odds with everything that I believe about God and His works.

Whether or not ‘TamTamPamela’ actually was joking was kind of irrelevant by the end of it because there were people who posted that they agreed with her.

There were people who were praising God for the disaster which has hit Japan. There were people who thought that those children, and parents, and grandparents who were killed - who lived their last moments in abject terror unable to save themselves - deserved it.

There were people who thought this was a wonderful way in which God could remind the world who was in charge and those people delighted in the horror we have seen on our screens.

For anyone to call themselves Christian, or indeed religious in any denomination, and to revel in the loss and death being felt by an entire nation is incredulous.

To have a complete lack of empathy or sympathy for those thrust into a hell on earth is nothing short of barbaric. It is the kind of hateful and hurtful response which turns others away from religion.

Religion should not be forced upon us out of fear of retribution if we don’t meet certain standards. Living a good life should be about trying your best and caring for others as you would have them care for you.

When I think of that child, standing, his arms raised while he is scanned for dangerous levels of radiation - radiation which may have catastrophic implications on his health as he grow - I fail to see how any loving God would see this as a good way to teach anyone a lesson.

And it dawned on me - there are scarier things than earthquakes, tsunamis and nuclear catastrophies to protect my children from.

There are religious zealots who twist what should be about love, forgiveness and hope into something dark and horrid - something so hate filled that there is no trace of God to be found in their words.

That is what, perhaps, we should really be afraid of. That is what our children need protected from.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...