Frowning from home. It has a certain ring to it.
One month has passed and I’m utterly banjaxed. This looking after a baby malarkey whilst trying to keep some normal sense of tidiness about the house is the greatest test known to man. Which explains the title of this post as I cannot fathom how our mothers, grandmothers and their fore-mothers managed it without ending up in various lunatic asylums. It might explain why a lot of them are still rather religious and why they sought solace in the church. It was the only hours’ peace they had all week.
IF you’ll permit me, I’ll indulge myself in a spot of “woe is me”. Now those of you who know my situation will say, “but you only have one child to look after during the day!”, the other being at school, at least for the next 3 weeks. I’ll accept that as a valid reason for me not to have a gripe or three, especially since most if the afore-mentioned ladies raised screaming gaggles of greater numbers, but sod it. I’m a bloke, I get man flu and I’m allowed to waffle on the strain of raising one bairn, whilst my follicles rapidly resemble a badger’s arse and my ability to think coherently disappears off into the wild beyond. (I’m only going to partially blame this for my lack of scribbling in recent weeks)
Up front, I have to stress, that the wee fella is totally adorable and has a belly laugh on him that would make a sailor blush. If he could talk, with a laugh like that, I’m positive the air would be blue and the jokes would be filthy. Not for me a demure wee darling. Rambunctious all the way I say. He possesses all the standard wily ways of the wain, luring you in with sweet smiles and giggles before throwing a feckin’ great box of howling spanners into the false calm which was your life for those few minutes.
“Feed me ye big bollix!” “Remove this shite off me arse and use an unfragranced wipe this time, you insensitive tool. Me hole stung like field of nettles after you used them cheap ones that smelt like a hoor’s handbag”. “What do you call this crap then? Apple and Blueberry Puree? Puree d’Turd more like”.
“Actually I don’t mind that one. What was that foul-tasting spew you gave me for breakfast? Oats? OATS!!? I’m a flippin’ baby ye gobshite, not a donkey”.
How he manages to fit this invective in amongst the howling yaps and crocodile tears I’ll never know. One minute it’s like he’s receiving electro-shock treatment, the next, full of joys of spring. They learn the methods of emotional blackmail early these days. “You’re not looking at me. Waaaaah!” “Not BBC News 24 again? Waaaah! Put on the Teletubbies and move yer fat arse out of the road so I can see what Po’s wearing today.” Where’s my bottle? Waaaaah!”
Christ on a bike. Imagine doing this with 4 of the wee feckers.”More Weight in the nappy, fat boy! Uuuhhhhhhh, Waaaah, gruuuunt! Waaaah.” Followed naturally with a huge smile and all the pleasantries of the day.
This is my day before lunchtime. In the interim I’ve taken the wee lass to school, tried to eat a slice of toast, maybe washed a dish or two and if I’m truly lucky, sterilised the bottles. Needless to say he charms the knickers off the mothers at the primary school before resorting to type and yammering for most of the remaining morning. Maybe he was expecting more at the primary school? They do grow up quickly these days after all. I comfort myself in the knowledge that he’ll get a rude awakening when he’s 21 and it takes more than a wink and a smile to seduce the ladies. Mind you I’m no expert in that field so he’ll probably gravitate to his uncle for advice on such matters.
By the time Stella arrives him from work after 5pm I’m ready for joining the Foreign Legion. The dinner’s a half-baked concoction of something vaguely edible and himself is usually serenading me with Rage Against The Machine in the unholy key of Waaaaaaaah once more. The house could be tidier but it’s not as bad as it could have been. I like to think I’m slowly but surely discovering a method of persevering through the mayhem and madness and finding brief snippets of time achieve something worthwhile from my list of chores.
Respect to the ladies. It’s no wonder ye live longer than us. It’s your thoroughly deserved reward for keeping us all on the straight and narrow, right from the word go.
Raising kids is a young person’s game. Public disdain or not, at least teenage parents should theoretically have the energy to deal with a howling bairn. Which all indirectly leads me to the subject for today.
It’s general election time here in the UK and Northern Ireland and this week we’ve been enduring the release of the various party manifestos. During my vain attempts to calm the wee lad down I’ve been satisfying my political appetite by having BBC News 24
on constantly. Despite being geographically unable to cast a vote in preference of a mainland party, I prefer to watch their shenanigans as opposed to the usual tribal claptrap we;re forced to deal with here in the provincial backwaters. It’s hard to get excited here in Lagan Valley when no matter who you vote for, the smug twat, Wee Jeffrey
, will get elected anyways. There’s no counting for taste in these parts
First up I’ll make no bones about what side of the fence I stand. I’m essentially a liberal/leftie who reads the Guardian, someone who firmly believes that God and the church have no place in political life. It’s the main reason why I could never trust Tony Blair, apart from other obvious fact that he was a lying hallion. Given his propensity for dishonesty and obfuscation
, it’s no real surprise that he kissed the Pope’s ring
. Despite his dour nature, Gordon Brown typified the Labour movement more than Blair ever did. His personality flaws may do him no favours but Brown does, I believe, have the genuine interest of the nation at heart and that secretly he must desperately regret the fact that New Labour became the lapdogs of Mandelson and his evil minions. He may put it right if he is returned to power but I’m not harbouring hopes for the immediate future. The seeds are sadly already in shoot.
The Conservative manifesto today was truly outstanding. The wee fella had calmed down enough for me to indulge in a post of ironing and I listened to Cameron outlining his vision for the future of the country. To the untrained ear he was describing a Utopic vision of Britain where we could all have a say in how the country was run. No longer would we be held hostage to Big Government. The little man could rise up and control his own destiny. We would have the power in our own hands. It was no wonder the wee fella fell asleep for those initial opening bars of Blue Dave’s refrains. All would be well in a Conservative Britain. And then the wee lad woke up howling the house down. Wheeeeeeeee…metaphor alert.
The calm serenity of the baby was a false dawn. He was only resting his eyes. Even he could see that it all was a sham and he took the opportunity, with full cacophonous vocals, to remind me as such. For the time being Robert is not in control of his own destiny, and neither, ladies and gentlemen, will you be under a Conservative government. Let’s look at what devolving power to the people really entails.
The most apt word I can find is shifting. Shifting responsibility to people means shifting the blame. We gave you the chance and you blew it. Or, we gave you the chance and you didn’t take it. Either way, it’ll not be the fault of the Tories. They’re telling us you can take control of your schools, hospitals and police forces. Heck you can even sack your own MP. Doesn’t it sound wonderful? Yet there were no promises made telling you how they would support you to do this. Here. Have some rope. In times of trouble, would a Tory government assist you in overcoming those difficulties? Hey, you had your chance. If it all sounds eerily familiar, cast your mind back to the 1980’s and the me, myself and I society, generated then, unsurprisingly, by the Tories. You had control of your own destiny then and what resulted was a Britain consumed by a voracious appetite for success and the expense of anyone and everything. LOADSAMONEY!!!!!
LOOK AT MY WADGE OF CASH!!!! Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing.
What it really means is that there will be as always a select few, usually always the current elite, who will exploit the loopholes and advantages of such a policy and create an even wider equality gap. Create a new business and pay no tax/NIC for the first 10 people you employ? Just rename part of your company and move some staff around accordingly. Winner! Create your own school and select only the best from your area to attend. Maybe even charge some fees. No sink estate scum for little Henry to scoff at whilst chewing on his M&S prawn sarnies for lunch. You see, putting this bluntly, the Tories tell you will have the power but they know full well that the majority of people have no impetus to and are too lazy to seize this advantage. Yet they know that those who will avail are those who are already possess the good things in life. In reality there is nothing there for the great unwashed, no mater how they dress it up with fancy words and soundbites. An old work colleague of mine in the Prudential had the audacity to promote the Tory cause by bizarrely claiming that they seemed more educated than the present government and, as such, could only but do a better job at running the country. Educated? Maybe. Skilled in the dark arts of smoking mirrors? Definitely. I hadn’t the heart to tell him that I doubt there’s very few, if at all, anyone in power at the moment, who left school with no more than C grades in Maths and English.
By the end of the fancy rhetoric I have to admit to feeling nauseous. I’d a creeping sense of dread that we will soon be governed by the above-mentioned wolf, who will shed the woolly garb and metaphorically eat us for dinner. I can’t get Cyndi Lauper
out of my head writing this now. And that main fear is borne from the grim reality that people will fall hook, line and sinker for it. They always do, even more so should they be readers of the Sun and Star. Like a sailor pissing into the wind, they will eventually regret it.
Tomorrow sees the launch of the Liberal Democrat manifesto. It’s the one I’m looking forward to most. I have a sneaky feeling that this year could be their year. Definitely not an outright victory but drawing enough support to throw a bloody great bull into the china shop. People should remember the last Tory government. We’re still suffering from it. Labour have, for the most part, bolloxed up their big chance. Vote for Change, Dave? Yes indeed. A vote for the Lib Dems
would do it.
They say Baileys is the drink for people who don’t like alcohol. In an odd way it reminds me of the ham made from turkey they give you when you’re in a predominantly Muslim country in the Far East. You want something what’s considered bad for ye so they invented an unsuitable compromise. Well frankly, turkey ham
tastes like the reconstituted scrotal sac of a decaying horse, or so I imagine. Baileys is that guilty secret of a confirmed drinker. You might publicly denounce it as heresy but ye’ll drink it if offered and sure if there’s nothing left in the house, you’ll gladly welcome it’s comforting sickly sweetness. The majority of ye will also know that it helps make a damn fine cheesecake as well.
One of my earliest blog entries
described my apparent ineptitude in the kitchen. I’ll admit to being a little disingenuous in that post. I can cook but only when I put my mind to it. It’s a spontaneous thing really. Daily dinners don’t count as they have to be done or no one eats in the family. I have to suddenly brave the creation of something, generally a concoction that I’ll have a craving for at that exact moment in time. Weirdly it’s usually on a Sunday and involves desserts, or food of a sugary confection.
My last attempt at a meringue was a success. Huzzah! It was pointed out that it more resembled a Pavlova but beggars can’t be choosers when it comes to the delicate process of adding sugar to eggs and fluffing them up into a whippy goo. Hell I even threw in some blue food colouring for increased bada-bing. A little dash a cream and some berried fruits and voila, 500 calories (conservative guesstimate) on a plate. That particular day though was like the old story about waiting for buses. Yup! The true spirit of culinary adventure took hold and the end product was a cheesecake, which in the grand scheme of things, was bloody tasty, if admittedly not 100% perfect.
Our next door neighbour gave us a recipe for a cheesecake, albeit not your traditional method of creation. This one’s baked in the oven as opposed to setting in the old Frigidaire. It’s called baked cheesecake. Seriously. No word of a lie. I could give the recipe but that would involve typing here at the keyboard for longer than I want to. Being a lazy bastard in lay mans terms. However I will say that the ingredients are virtually identical to your standard cheesecake and similarly ye can add yer own flavourings to suit your mood. As mentioned up above, Baileys is a good one, guaranteed to appeal to the palate of lovers of all things dessert. With nary a drop of the creamy booze in the house, I plumped for rum and whiskey. Oh yes! Let the good times roll.
Honestly speaking, I regret not putting more of the bloomin’ stuff in it. The kick was missing. It was delumptious
but could have been better. My favourite ice-cream is rum and raisin so I’m tempted to try that as my next foray into the land of the cheesy cake. What’s ideal about this recipe and cake is that it’s simple and undemanding, perfect for a baking novice. It will allow for a certain level of experimentation and barring a complete brain fade in the flavourings department, should never taste truly pants.
Next expedition may well involve a chocolate pie made with Dime
bars. The afore-mentioned neighbour dropped round a piece that she threw together yesterday in baking tray she had borrowed. Just imagine Homer drooling and you’ll understand why this pie will have to be attempted. I almost wept when I took my first bite. Marie Antoinette was right you know.
Way back, when you could accuse the local slapper
for being a witch if she refused your advances and you threw your daily ploppings out into the street, I borked my knee playing footie in the front garden. Dewy grass has always been looked upon with suspicion since. I was 15 or 16 at the time and looking forward to playing in my first Open Week as a competitive juvenile delinqu….I mean, golfer. (I doubt if juvenile delinquency was even invented in the 1980’s and hoodies back then were reserved for the monks). Up until that point in time I actively played football, both gaelic
version, at school and whilst not being terribly effective at either, enjoyed hurling myself about a field with youthful abandon. Then the knee thing happened and whether it was a self-conscious thing or not, the enthusiasm for physical sport diminished. It wasn’t a terribly gruesome injury but it did necessitate gallumping around on crutches
and regularly lifting pound bags of sugar strapped across my right foot for 6 weeks. None of yer underwater recuperation for this Irish lump. Shortly after it had healed, I went to Rosses Point in Sligo with an old friend of mine from school, the journey taking what seemed like 4 hours. Stepping out of the car when we reached Ryan’s Hotel, my leg took the rest of the evening to straighten itself out, something, at the time, I imagined it never would. Therefore I can only assume that a deep-seated fear of a similar injury re-occurring took hold and my non-existent potential as a professional footballer subsided, never to be re-discovered.
Now that was a long-winded way of saying I’m not a running about a field chasing a lump of leather type of person. Watching football? Yes but getting involved in an actual game? No way Jose. Except for this week. And whilst the mind thoroughly enjoyed the experience, the avuncular heap of slightly overweight flesh that carries me about today, didn’t. It was my nephew’s eighth birthday and my own mother hosted a small party for him and his muckers from school. We were down in Carlingford
, where I grew up, for the day in order to assist with controlling the mayhem that normally accompanies such gatherings. The goalposts were mercifully easy to assemble, although unfortunately, a little on the minuscule side. The vertically challenged
would have struggled to score goals in them things. The general field of play was determined and we waited for the guests to arrive.
It’s remarkably easy to forget just how haphazardly young folks throw themselves into a game of football. You tend to have a ball with everyone stuck within a 3 foot perimeter of its position on the pitch. For the most part, this was the case except for one major difference. The tackling was ferocious. A short while after I had left university I undertook a spot of substitute teaching for the Ma whilst she was recovering from an ailment of some sorts. It lasted 2 weeks and, not being their regular teacher, the lessons and pupils were less stressful than I have previously imagined. PE was exactly as I had described it above. Hordes of 8&9 year olds, all running after the ball, trying to give it a whack, the direction of said whack being entirely irrelevant. It was all fairly harmless yet something has obviously happened since that time which has added a more focused element to the chaos. (I’m wagging my finger in the general direction of SKY on this one). Putting in mildly, when it came to snaffling the ball from another player, the tackles were vigorous and just a tad over-exuberant. “No fear” is the expression that springs to mind. Luckily there were no broken limbs either.
The last time I encountered such physical endeavour on the football pitch was back in 1995. I’m going back on myself here a little as I did initially say that I avoided “playing” fitba, preferring instead the leisurely meandering of the golf course. However that’s not 100% accurate. In 1995 I used to frequent Robinson’s Rockbottom in Belfast on a Saturday night. Dirty, greasy shithole that it was, I bloody adored that place. Rock and Metal
, Shots and Pints, with a bloody big Harley Davidson on the back wall. Not a Limp Bizkit or a Slipknot in sight. If heaven were in fact a real place and not some mumbo-jumbo paradise invented by some beardy blokes in dresses 2000 years ago, Rockbottom would have been its earthly equivalent. My Sunday afternoons, following the previous evening’s alcoholic entertainment, involved a primeval game of footie in a grassy clearing in one of Northern Ireland’s most notorious estates. There’s not many with an Irish dispensation who can say they’ve mingled with residents of Rathcoole without having to visit the Royal
Those games were remarkably skillful despite the large number of flying tackles and studs up challenges that were on show. I learned pretty quickly to volunteer for nets. On the rare occasions I was required outfield, I adopted the traditional goal-hangers position for the terminally clump-footed. Even to this day I’m still amazed no-one ended up in A&E considering various areas of the pitch had more glass than a tomato farm. Although perfectly amicable, I’m pretty sure no-one would have been too disappointed had the Paddy gashed himself a little. Then again, when in Rome, don’t feed the lions.
Naturally enough there were a few tears this week as the game progressed, mainly involving uncomfortable grass burns and scrapped elbows from the pebble-dashed wall on one side of the pitch. Children’s parties rarely finish without a little gowling from one guest or another. Mind you, waking up the next day and wondering who had replaced my legs with concrete pillars, was excruciating in itself. I’ll readily admit to being perfectly aware that a paragon of physical perfection I ain’t, but the simple fact that if an eight year old can floor me with a hearty lunge, then I need to lose a few pounds here and there. Oh and everywhere else too.
The North Coast of Northern Ireland is the geographical equivalent of a schizophrenic. On the one hand it’s extremely rugged and beautiful, with a pervading sense of calm amongst the cliffs, peaks, dunes and valleys. There’s a real sense of getting away from it all up there, a place to clear what might ail you. Yet there is a harshness and lurking menace which is inescapable. One man’s scenery is another’s desolation, borne mainly of bitter winds and horizontal rain.
IN the past 3 days we’ve encountered 17 different shades of bloody freezing. One minute the sun is splitting the skies and the next we’re battling blizzards. Interspersed between these fluctuations is a rain which tears the skin from yer face, so unmerciful in its desire to inflict physical pain. If the Yanks fancied a stop off on their International Rendition tour for suspected members of Al’ Qaida they could do no worse than alighting here. A few lashes of a wet tea towel on POrtsewart Strand should loosen a tongue or two. Even in the 3 years I spent at university in this neck of the woods, I cannot actually remember a time when there wasn’t a wind which sole modus operandi was to cut you in two.
Admittedly when I lived here you did become accustomed to it. You had to. Weather-wise the place takes no prisoners, especially in the wintry months between October and March. Naturally these months also coincide with the bulk of the scholastic year at university so the majority of our 3 years here were spent either floating gaily downwind, hoping to stop in time before been hoisted into the ravaging waters, or tramping diagonally into a gale, our pockets weighed down with change for balance. Was it my imagination at the time but did the walk home from the Anchor always seem to be into a headwind no matter what way ye were heading?
A good friend of mine at the time ended up with a broken leg having being physically lifted by the wind one evening in Portrush and deposited on the other side of the street. She wasn’t helped by the fact that she was six-foot tall and willow-framed. I can recall her saying at the time that it was both scarily frightening and bizarrely exhilarating. I’d lean towards the brown trouser sensation myself. It’s not something you expect to experience outside of the American Mid West although the funnelled streets of Portrush do create ideal channels for the cold North winds to wreak their mischief. Whilst I’ve never travelled to places where extreme cold was the expected norm, I can only believe that relatively speaking, the North Coast is the coldest place on the planet.
You know you’re about to embark on short holiday to the North Coast when you check the weather forecast and it tells you that (a) it’s going to be blowing a gale and (b) the chance of precipitation is 100%. It’s hard not to laugh when we learn this evening that we’re also going to get some snow. I may take the knee-lengths out of the case.
Access to the interwebs will be non-existent in Ballycastle so there’ll be no more posts until Saturday at the earliest. As a heads up, here’s what will be upcoming over the next few weeks:
DIY: The Manly Way Part 2 – a weary tale of saws, hammers and bent nails.
Cheesecake – a dessert adventure.
Bring Back the House Party – more Noel Edmonds please.
Nobody Does it Better? – cover versions better than the original.
That’s yer lot for now. I’m going off to locate my thermals from the ironing mountain and I’ll leave you all with this.
When it comes to making life easier for yourself, product promoters will try to tell you that having a gadget for a particular task should fit the bill. Our house has it’s fair share of technological and electrical gizmos, the majority of which are gathering dust somewhere. From onion shredders to power washers, the list is unfathomably long. From my point of view this lust for gadgetry derives from having a dislike of anything which requires manual dexterity or hard labour. Why give yourself wrist strain when you can use a cordless screwdriver instead? It’s a known fact that screwing something onto a wall will invariably involve twisting your body into bizarre contortions in order to achieve success.
We’ve all had our fair share of DIY disasters. The clue’s in the name itself. If we wanted to expertly assemble cupboards or mount curtain poles we’d all have left school at 16 and became carpentry apprentices. Actually I’m being a little facetious here. A lot of people I know are extremely capable of a spot of DIY and look upon these tasks as a challenge to be overcome, usually with resulting success. It’s just me and my two left thumbs. Oh, and an inherent dislike of assembling stuff. Despite this, I have, as part of my responsibility as a houseowner and parent, have undertaken some “projects” about the house, with mixed outcomes.
Last Summer, the curtain pole in the bedroom decided to leap dramatically from the wall, spewing dust and various bits of masonry everywhere. The feckin’ thing took an age to put up in the first place and even then it always felt inevitable that there was going to be a disaster. So it was no great surprise that it did. Hateful a job as it was, I consoled myself with the knowledge that a case of rinse and repeat would correct the problem and the neighbours would no longer have to bear the sight of my bare arse as I changed my keks in the morning. I bet their Cheerios tasted funny during that time. To cut a long and painfully stressful story short, 4 weeks later we had a new curtain pole. Drilling holes in obstinate walls was never my forte but even I managed to create half a dozen of the bloody things, the unused ones now stuffed with parrotfood
. B&Q did a roaring trade in screws, drill bits and masonry glue and the neighbour’s children now possess a vocabulary in various shades of blue. Remarkably it hasn’t fallen down yet although I’m not getting too comfortable just yet.
Despite being a drilling novice I once managed to attach a retractable washing line to the back of the house. Naturally it has since fallen down, but the blame for that rests squarely with the wee lass who had decided to train for the London 2012 Asymmetric bars. Honestly speaking, I’m not dreading re-attaching the line. For some bizarre reason I found that drilling into the outside wall was a lot easier than the one inside the house. One of life’s little paradoxes I presume, the dime bar
of DIY. I wouldn’t recommend undertaking a similar project if you’re the owner of dentures. You could always use the masonry glue I suppose.
Every Summer when we, well I say we but really I mean she, as in the good lady herself, attempt to clear out the shed, it never ceases to amaze the alarming number of tools and gadgets we possess. The bright blue plastic cupboard on wheels, originally intended for the bathroom, is awash with screwdrivers, hammers, cheap Stanley knives and who knows what else. Yet when it comes down to finding the relevant item for a job in hand, the obligatory phone call to a neighbour is required. Either that or another trip to the father-in-law’s garage. A man dearly missed by us all, my father-in-law was Mr DIY and possessed every known tool available to mankind. IF World War Three had ever broken out suddenly we knew we could have relied on him to knock up a fallout shelter out of old furniture, some paving slabs and a few rolls of string. MacGuyver had nothing on him. No job was too innocuous nor too daunting and he had the equipment always at hand. There’s none like him and unlikely to be in the future as us males become more DIY deficient as the years go by. We’re losing many skills which were virtually essential amongst the older generations. I doubt if the latest iPhone has an application for assembling computer desks.
As the harshest Winter we’ve had for decades shows signs of disappearing and the trees, normally ablaze with blooming blossoms by now, showing new signs of life, the impending doom of cleaning up the garden approaches. Manual effort again, you see. The paths are manky and the grey muck of winter has splattered the outside walls. Time to produce the power washer. It’s in the shed somewhere.