Out of the mouths of babes….

Hello again, how was your week? After my lovely retreat I started off with great intentions to ‘digitally detox’ (i.e. not being glued to my phone) and to eat mindfully.

The latter is more practical than spiritual – The Bolter is getting married and has made it clear that ‘ a hefter for a bridesmaid is not desirable’ (she actually meant this kindly – so don’t judge – I’ve been whinging about my weight for the 20 years we have know each other. And, to be fair, i’m wearing a fur cape and at my current girth, I would look like a bewildered Yeti who had wandered into a really classy event.

I started off well but in a week where two children were doing public exams and a third was white water rafting in Croatia, it was not an ideal time to be incommunicado. Also being off line would have meant I would have missed Andrea (knitters) photograph of the mammary shaped cheese she spotted in a local shop!

The Mindful eating also took a bit of a hit. I did try to slow down, but felt really daft setting my fork down to ‘think’ after every bite. Also, after a particularly stressful Wednesday I treated myself to the culinary magic which is cooked ham cut up into a bag of smooshed up Tayto cheese and onion. Ooops.

Tomorrow in work (the bank holiday) we are being treated to a ‘Middle Management Seminar’ – I am beyond excited. I am currently wondering if it is possible to take out a ‘gagging order’ or a ‘super injunction’ on myself in order to prevent me from some career ending ‘contributing’.

As I said last last week, as a family we are very very bad at ‘not commenting’. This affliction is hardwired into our DNA – and I am very proud to have passed it on to my children.

YC has said that it is ok for me to share these pictures.

YC has a complex medical condition, part of which means she has a ‘visible difference’. So when it came time for her to go to nursery school (age 3) there had been quite a few hoops to jump through.

One of the questions I was obsessed with was, ‘what will she do if the other children are mean?’ I have no idea why I thought like this – the only negative or unkind reactions YC has ever had have been from adults. But, there was no way I was letting my child go to school unprepared. After talking to her doctors and the Changing Faces charity the recurring message was, ‘giver her the language’.

So, before she went to school YC practiced with her siblings and I answering the following questions.

What is that? – It’s my birthmark isn’t it interesting? Is it sore? – Sometimes Can I touch it? – No, that would be sore Can I catch it? – no, it’s just mine

A few days in and everything seemed to be going smoothly……. then out of nowhere, YC said, ‘a boy asked me about my face today’. We all did a terrible impression of indifference, ‘Oh, what did he say?’ ( I was already writing the letter of complaint in my head).

He said, ‘what’s that?’ I said ‘ it’s a birthmark, you wanker!!!’ (this was accompanied by a duhhhhh noise and a shoulder shrug.

Shit! – ‘What happened then?’ ‘ He cried and I got tooken away from the sand tray.’

When YC was born the ‘big’ children were 4 & 2 and from the day she was born they have advocated for her.

It is a natural reaction for people to look into a pram to see the baby. On seeing YC people were not always able to formulate an appropriate reaction in the eyes of her siblings. MC perfected a strategy, if she was unimpressed, she tapped the ‘viewer’ on the arm, meeting them with her steely gaze and saying clearly and politely, ‘you can trot along now’. It was very effective.

Trot along now!

MC’s view on most things is very clear and this extends to religion. Her thoughts on. Modern Catholicism came to the fore on the evening she received the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When I was the same age, ‘First Confession’ ( before the reconciliation rebrand) was very different. We were all marched over to the church and after a bewildering few minutes in a dark box with the priest on the other side of a grille we were sin free. There were 39 girls in my class, 38 of us were given one Hail Mary for our penance and the 39th got a decade of the rosary (that is hard core). It has been 40 years since that day and I am STILL wondering what the hell a seven year old did to get that penance – it must have been great.

By the time my children were at the same age things had really changed. gone were the dark boxes and the fear of eternal damnation. But, it might be fair to say that things have possibly moved too far in the ‘saggy titted tree hugger’ direction, I don’t even think sin was mentioned. The children are asked to draw a picture of a time ‘they did not please God’, then they sit out in the open beside the priest and have a chat, after absolution has been granted the picture is torn up to represent a fresh start. MC, as you can imagine found the whole thing rather patronising. She elected not do discuss an actual sin (time she did not please God) and made one up instead. Everything in MC’s life is on a strictly need to know basis.

We all trouped down to the church and at the appointed time I accompanied to the altar and stood back watching her transformation to a ‘state of grace’ taking place. We went back to our seat and I looked at my watch (deliberately) – exactly 29 seconds later, MC looked around, and there was another ‘glint’ – ‘Well, isn’t this fu****g boring’?’ (to be honest it was a bit dull)

When it comes to EC, he has a different nature from his sisters but that doesn’t mean there haven’t been moments when my head has been in my hands.

Nearly twenty years ago I took a colony of Beavers (very small Scouts, not buck toothed, water loving mammals) to the local fire station. EC was among them. The lovely fireman was giving them a talk about safety and making sure to close the house up tight at night to stop smoke spreading.

At this point EC puts up his hand and informs the group, ‘Actually, my house was built in 1913 and none of the doors are a standard size so its impossible to get a good seal’ (my pompous arse apple didn’t fall far from the tree). The fireman looked at me and I shrugged my shoulders in a I know! sort of a way, without claiming any kinship) Yep, I actually denied knowing my own child.

I’m sure there is a book somewhere with a title like ’47 habits of being an uncontroversial middle class child’. None of my children will have read it, and do you know what? I’m delighted, because I think they are legends.

One for all and all for one

When to speak and when be silent…..

Well, i’m back from my retreat – turns out I am in fact a 46 year old Geography teacher from Belfast. However, it also seems that i’m actually ok with that. It was a wonderful experience and I game back genuinely enriched and relaxed.

Unfortunately, all that silence also left me a lot of time for observing my fellow retreatants. After a very sort time it became clear that even people of a journey to their essential selves are as competitive as the general population!

For example, when teachers get together the competition usually rages between who has the crapest timetable and the fewest resources. As we were allowed to speak at mealtimes the stage was set for some hardcore ‘Out Jesusing’

These actually are mine. Named Lady Antonia’s beads, because they were found outside the church in London where Mother and Pasty (my grandmother) once sat behind Lady Antonia Fraser at Mass

Once everyone’s bona fides had been established – who was at school with your cousin etc – the conversation slipped seamlessly into ‘what priests do you know?’ (not in the Fleabag, sexy priest sort of the way) and the game begins. It could be compared to a very delicate game of Top Trumps. For example:

  • ‘Spiritual not Religious’ – no points for the liturgical lightweights
  • ‘I heard at Mass on Sunday…..’ ohhhh good opening – regular attender
  • ‘I find morning Mass a great way to start the day’ – now this is really upping the ante
  • ‘ She sits beside me at the Rosary after morning Mass’ – points here for doing something extra
  • ‘ I love the Holy Hour’ – now this is hardcore holiness – for the Holy Hour you have to go back to church
  • ‘Holy Hour is lovely but I prefer the peace of Adoration’ (Adoration is spending time with the blessed Eucharist – it’s lovely)’I go every Thursday Morning’ – now this is big – a regular slot at a ceremony which is optional
  • ‘Oh, I love Adoration – I do the 2-3 am slot on a Saturday night’ – and we have a winner!

A subset of this competition runs around the theme of Pilgrimages. Like most good church stories – there’s a schism. Is it better to have visited more shrines e.g. Lourdes, Knock, Fatima….. or visit the same shrine many times? This is a picture I took on one of my nine visits to Lourdes so far, so my thoughts are pretty clear on the matter.

Later on in the evening – once the ‘silence’ was over for the day, the tone of the competition changes and a new theme is introduced.

Misery

This is a good one – the closer you can link your life to a character from ‘Riders to the Sea’ or ‘ Les Mis’ (though not your dame who married Eddie Redmayne with his rich Granda), the better. If you are a regular reader of this blog you will know that the last year alone would get me straight to he semi-finals. Add to this the long dead Da and the sick child and I could have started engraving my name on the cup there and then. In a departure from form I avoided all of this and went to bed and read my book.

In fact I was so chilled and mellow after the retreat that I ‘lost’ my car for two hours on Monday afternoon despite having taken a photo of where I left it.

This diffidence was particularly out of character as we are a family of ‘speaker outers’ and we all learned from the Master – Patsy.

Patsy is my Maternal Grandmother she died a few years ago and this week would have been her 101st birthday. She styled herself on the late Queen Mother (this is her 90th Birthday photograph) and was an absolute legend with an opinion on EVERYTHING

Patsy was not a woman to allow anyone’s sensitivities or indeed Canon Law to get in the way of her thoughts.

She felt that I got married far too young (I was 23 – I told you she was a wise woman). On the morning I was leaving for my honeymoon, I called in home to say cheerio. As I was walking out the door she called me back – a hug? Nope. Some important marital advice.

‘The Pope (John Paul II, known for his conservatism and hard line on contraception) said in The Universe (ultra right wing Catholic Newspaper – big fans of the Pope – read by Patsy and definitely not me) that you can be on The Pill for two years after you get married (bollocks).

When, two years later (I know!!) my son was born naturally I called home to share the good news. I had taken care to register his birth before I phoned – this is because the name my parents chose for me was not in fact ‘Patricia’ it was something quite different. However on the arrival of Patsy to see me and in response to her wobbly voiced request (she was a master) about my name – suddenly I was Patricia.

So, having registered my precious bundle I made my was to the payphone (this was 20 years ago before we all had mobiles). In Craigavon Hospital the phones were along way from the single rooms (Patsy had organised a private birth and single room). After a C – Section there is a very special walk which prepares you for the multi tasking ahead. It’s a slow, painful shuffle – made more difficult by the fact you are trying to see over your enormous swollen boobs. One hand is occupied literally holding your guts in while the other is holding the wall because you are wazzed on painkillers. Add to this that there is oozing from every orifice and the smell of gently cooking cabbage, if you have chosen to cool your boobs with their leaves, overall its a good look.

Having completed this odyssey I put my coins into the phone and dialled home. Mother answered and after the initial – weight and wellness questions we got round to the BIG QUESTION. I had chosen a very Catholicly name for my son – not Emmanuel but to be honest not far off. It’s a beautiful name and it really suits him. However, Patsy was not initially a fan.

Once Mother shared the news I could hear Patsy screeching from the other side of the room (and it was not a small room).

‘ ********* (insert name) ********** (insert name again). The last *********** I heard of was getting let out of Long Kesh, he’ll never get a job!!!!!!!!’

Well, that was me told – but ahh ha – he was already registered so it was too late.

As soon as Patsy met the baby they both fell in love. They had a beautiful relationship and all the children miss her very much.

A few days before she died she spoke to EC (Don Corleone style [definitely not like Tony Soprano – Patsy would never go to a therapist]) to make him the ‘Head of the Family’ completely ignoring the fact that she had a daughter and granddaughter!!!!

Next week I shall tell you all about how my children have happily assumed the mantle of Patsy’s forthrightness.

Dum de de dum dum, dum dum dum dum duuuuummmmm

Happy Easter everyone – I hope you are all having a lovely day – we are. In the best regulated families you will be sitting down following a beautiful meal and a bracing walk – a parlour game might even be in play. Or you may be like the rest of us, the children are full of chocolate and climbing the walls, Uncle Dick is drunk in the corner and Auntie Dora has just said something political……

It seems like the perfect time to share a little more of my childhood story. We left off with my desire for Mother to be a bit more ‘like the other Mummies’ – thankfully she didn’t oblige and I actually feel rather guilty now about asking her to conform.

She once came to my recorder recital (recorder recital!! – I was also in the Chess Club – is it a wonder I’m single?), wearing a full length scarlet wool cape, a Cossack hat and a sealskin muff. This was Larne in he 1980’s – people looked – it was scundering.

My Mother is a gifted shopper – I mean really gifted. There is no task too small or no purchase too obscure. Even before the internet she could find anything – anywhere. When I NEEDED (according to Mother) gold sugared almonds for my wedding favours – gold almonds were found (flown in from Harrods – they were minging).

She does however have one peccadillo – she is VERY particular about how her shopping is packed. Not in a ‘giving the charity bagpacker £2 and then do it yourself’ sort of a way. Oh no, I mean scrutinising the placement and ‘companion’ bagging of every single item.

Once, once, over 35 years ago one hapless assistant in M & S put a pair of shoes in with a silk scarf and it got plucked. Bear in mind, that at this time shop workers in Belfast wore a Pac a Mac clipped to their belts because they spent so much time standing in front of the city hall during bomb scares. The poor girl was probably too worried about getting blasted to kingdom come to consider the structural integrity of a bloody silk scarf. Ever since that fateful day Mother has been the scourge of retail assistants everywhere. Before a bagging transgression has even taken place her shoulders tense and there is an intake of breath. Sometimes, if an acceptable packing configuration follows a drama can be avoided. If an opportunity for substandard ‘bagging’ occurs, there is a little cough, this is followed by (in a faint, wobbly and high pitched voice), ‘ emmmmm, would it be ok if I had another bag ……..it’s just once I had a silk scarf plucked by a pair of shoes’. I think they must have pictures of Mother in all retail staff rooms with,’ For the love of God, give her two bags.’ printed below it in large letters.

TVA ‘silk scarf’ for reference – naturally the original silk scarf is much too plucked to be seen in public

Having said all that she’s great craic with a wicked sense of humour. We often go to social events together, and I get to some great outings as ‘Anne Guest’. One particular night comes to mind. mother was filming a TV series, and it was about half way through with all the prerecords completed (making a facial injury something of an issue). We arrived home very late to my house, possibly having spent slightly too long worshipping at the shrine of Bacchus. I went into the kitchen to pour a glass of water (Mother always needs a glass of water going to bed {for her pills}). All of a sudden there was a yelp, followed by staggering footsteps – this was accompanied by cries of ‘ NOT THE FACE, NOT THE FACE’. Then there was a thud, and silence. I sprinted into the hall to find her face planted at the top of the stairs.

In answer to my concerned enquiries about her wellbeing – she turned to me, grinned and observed, ‘ Don’t worry – my tits saved me!’

Naturally, many years later I asked my talented friend JL to create an embroidery to celebrate the event. Not sure how Mother felt about that.

In addition to their love, the greatest gift my parents gave me was the ability to find wit and humour of even the darkest of days. My Confirmation was a prime example of this.

In Catholic Primary Schools, Confirmation is the highlight of your final year. My time at primary school was neither happy or productive. Despite the heroic efforts of all my teachers who were gifted educators and compassionate women, my card had been marked by the Head Nun. I was the product of a ‘Mixed Marriage’ (my father was Presbyterian and my mother wore capes – I was bound to be trouble.) This unpleasantness (she actually threw the school choices form at my mother because a ‘non Catholic’ school had be picked for my post primary education), was combined with the fact that neither by beloved Father or Grandfather would be in attendance meant no-one was really looking forward to it.

Every girl in the class wanted a job for the big event – after all THE BISHOP would be in attendance. The big parts (the readings) were given to girls who had not passed the 11+ (did they actually think we wouldn’t notice??). I had no hope of a singing part – I can’t sing so that was fair enough. All that was left was the Offertory Procession. The announcement was being made, I held my breath, I was in!! I much have caused Sr. Marcella CP some sleepless nights – could you really leave out the ‘recently orphaned child’ on the other hand……? ‘ Pragmatism won (people would have talked) – I got the water the Priest washes his hands with – not the good stuff like the Bread and Wine – but at least I had a part.

On the morning of the service I got on my ‘outfit’ – petrol blue wool suit (think Margaret Thatcher miners strike chic), a ‘Lady Diana blouse, white tights and the most uncomfortable grey leather shoes in the world. The uncomfortable shoes (with a heel to give me a bit of height) contributed some stigmata style red stains to my tights – fabulous.

While we were waiting for the Bishop, every woman in the church was discussing the latest episode of The Thorn Birds. Everyone had read it and were now entranced by the mini series – what would happen on Matlock Island??????

As he made his entrance and our innocent voices lifted in song. ‘May is the month of Mary’ was joined my the low but insistent thrum of my Aunt Melwira chanting the theme song to the Thorn Birds (you know the one, Dum, de de dum dum dum dum dum dum duuuuuummmmmm).

It was a dark day – but we were smiling.

Next week you can hear about the walking course I thought was a good idea,

Give me a child until [s]he is seven……

Hello again, this week I have to begin with an apology. Last week something went wrong with the photographs and I may have come across as something of a ‘grape hyacinth’ freak. In the interests of clarity I’m including the missing pictures below. On the left are my school friends (I’m the one with the bad perm) and on the right is JY looking cerebral in a turtleneck.

So, as we know, all good stories have an origin narrative, where the personality of the storyteller is shaped. These are often set on a distant planet, mine was shaped in Larne! (Don’t worry Mother, this won’t be ‘Mommie Dearest’)

Picture the scene….

It’s sometime in the mid 1960’s and two people fall in love. So far so good. However, the ‘girl’ (mother) was a 4ft 11″ Catholic in her 20’s and the ‘boy’ (the irony) was a 6ft Presbyterian in his late 40’s. Way to go parents – no controversy there!

They did get married, and after a respectable pause, I came along. Their union would have been referred to in the 1970’s (and beyond), as a ‘mixed marriage’, because neither of them ‘turned’, this has to be said with the sort of sneer you would adopt when prescribing an ointment for a particularly embarrassing pustule.

So who were these romantic pioneers (it was pure Kevin and Sadie, love across the barricades)? They were a very glamorous couple and once went to a fancy dress party as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. Mummy was all eyes and hair (not her own, well the eyes were, but not the hair) Daddy looked elegant in a safari suit and a brown silk polo. He was very fond of that safari suit.

They went to another fancy dress party as Maurice Chevalier and Gigi (which gave off a rather different vibe). Strangely – no pictures exist of that particular outing!

Daddy was a gifted raconteur. One of his specialities was sharing the fun fact that his wife ‘was the only woman he knew who could take her knickers off standing up in a Mini’. The fact that they were Mini owners at the time lent a certain veracity to this tale. I never did find out if this was true and since Mother has done in her hip she is no longer limber enough to try. He would mesmerise a room with tales of his time in the States, New York in particular. It was reminiscent of a County Antrim Jack Kerouac. This was especially entertaining to watch as he had never set foot on the continent of America. He was very bold.

Daddy was a very devoted parent, and much more involved that other men of his generation. The day the Marie Rose was being raised he wanted me to stay off school to watch it. He was persuaded that we would definitely be allowed to watch it in school – we weren’t, and he never quite forgave the Headmistress.

We would cuddle up on the sofa and watch all variety of programmes. My poor teachers and my extremely right wing, ultra Catholic primary school were subjected to a daily lottery of what I might reveal in ‘Our News’. Every morning after we heard that Shelia’s Mummy had had another baby and Kathleen’s Mummy had got a new vacuum cleaner, I might observe that I had seen a lion eating an impala (Wildlife on One), or a ‘great piece of satire, where a man goes into a restaurant, wearing only a tie’ (Not the Nine o’clock News). I was something of a pompous arse even then.

‘We three’ were happy as pigs in muck when very suddenly while I was ten, he rather suddenly and thoughtlessly died of a heart attack. Hmmmmmmm – now don’t worry, I’m not going to go all Frank McCourt – I did get to keep my Communion money. Our already small community had dwindled to two. Mother and I moved in with my recently widowed grandmother (oh yes! good times). Do you know something? After a while, it was ok – mainly due to the force of character and will of the two women raising me.

Mother is an incredible woman. For many years she juggled full time work, and acting career and raising me (who we will recall from last week was a little bit odd). Having said that she isn’t particularly conventional. When you are a teenage and ‘odd’, conventional is really important.

Next week I shall share with the story of the night Mother’s tits saved her……..

She’s just a little bit odd….

Happy Mother’s Day everyone. Today I am going to repay my own Mother’s unconditional love by plastering details of my disastrous love life all over the internet – i’m sure she will be very proud.

Well, before I discuss The American, I think its only fair to give you a bit of context. You see, i’m a little bit odd (not 50 shades odd, more having all your colouring pencils in height order depending on how much they have been used, odd)

When I was seven I became fixated on the idea that I was going to be kidnapped (talk about self aggrandisement) Being something of a control freak, I had even packed a bag and had a coat on a hanger all ready to go. I still remember the coat, it was a lovely red aran jacket with silver buttons which my mother had knit, I was particularly fond of it. It was this domesticity that completely terrified my poor parents (i’m something of a stranger to being tidy).

A GP appointment was hastily made and I was soon explaining to a rather bewildered medic that, ‘no strange men had offered me any confectionary – I just had a ‘feeling’ that I was going to be kidnapped’. At this point, he should have said:

a) Mummy, have you ever heard of ASD?

b) Don’t worry about the whole kidnapping thing – she’s feeling a bit insecure because her beloved auntie has just died.

However, instead he ran with, ‘Don’t worry Mummy, she’s just a little bit odd’ – and that was that. To be fair, it was Larne circa 1980 and medicine has moved on a bit. Over the years I have embraced the oddness, even celebrated it, but the accompanying social awkwardness does make dating something of a challenge.

Returning to 2018, one evening in late summer a ‘smile’ pinged into my inbox and the American adventure began. The American in question was a Boston / Belfast based doctor and soon we were chatting away and I was able to subtract six from any number (time difference between Belfast and Boston) at lightening speed.

To be fair, a lot of the conversation was rather pompous intellectual one-upmanship – I loved it!!! His favourite book was ‘The Mismeasure of Man’ an argument against the theories put forward in ‘The Bell Curve’ (not The Bell Jar, that’s a whole other shitstorm) – not a lot of laughs and chapter four on factor theory is rather dry, but it gave us plenty to talk about.

Our first meeting was delayed by the whole ‘hot water bottle’ incident. I’m not naturally a vain person, but even I could see that trying to be alluring while bits of your face are actually falling off into your dinner is probably not a goer.

Things took a slightly racy turn when I sent him a picture of my chest! Actually, not racy in the slightest, I was querying if the cross I was wearing was a ‘bit too Borgia’ for a school Mass – The American responded with a suitably arsey comment about Borgia being preferable to Opus Dei – I was in heaven.

We eventually met up in a nice restaurant in town, I was terrified, the last ‘date’ I had been on was when I was 20 and I hadn’t a clue about what you were supposed to do. After the first five minutes where we both settled ourselves by straightening the cutlery things relaxed a bit and we had a lovely time. There was one slightly ‘odd’ moment half way through when he rubbed my arm and told me I was doing very well, in the style of a benevolent uncle or ageing clergyman (this was in response to my earlier declaration of nervousness).

Anyway – time passed, more chatting, and a decision was reached – we would spend the night together. Let’s face it, neither of us were ever going to be the ‘tumble spontaneously into bed type’. I think Tim Collins had probably made less elaborate preparations for his invasion Northern Iraq that I had for that evening.

There were endless consultations with The Bolter regarding clothing and grooming. We went with JAANB (jeans and a nice blouse), to continue the ‘keen but not desperate’ narrative set by my knickers. Mr Bolter (a gifted administrator and mathematician) thoughtfully sent a post coital self evaluation pro forma – no pressure then! To say I was nervous was an understatement ( it had been exactly six years to the day since I last got up to anything like this).

At this point, if you were watching a movie of my life (I would be played by Janette Krankie, Sandi Toksvig or possibly Susan Calman), the camera would discretely cut away you would be treated to suitably unsubtle images of rockets and fountains while Souza’s Liberty Bell plays loudly. So lets just imagine that, shall we. Suffice it to say, fun was had.

Unfortunately, there was soon to be trouble in paradise. Now, i’d always known that his politics were conservative, and that some of his views were a bit tricky (but it had been SIX YEARS). However, what happened next, I was not expecting……

Late one evening, I observed breathlessly, ‘Gosh, wasn’t that lovely!’ (told you, odd) and then in a jokey fashion, ‘Thank God you’re not a Trump voter.’

What followed was THE WORLD’S MOST AWKWARD SILENCE. Dear Reader, what was a girl to do?

There was no other option, I put my knickers on and went home !

My excursion into Irish / American co-operation had reached an abrupt end.

Next week – how I nearly met up with a Scottish psychiatrist on Boxing Day.

ps: Still waiting to hear from the Lovely Levison – if some of you could get on to that, i’d really appreciate it.

And then there were sausage rolls…..

It’s been a lovely week – spring has definitely sprung! During the week MC passed an interview which takes her a big step closer to his chosen career and I was away on a fieldtrip. It was great, I got to spend two days fannying about in the Mournes measuring ‘stuff’ in rivers and the sea. It was made even better by the fact that the students we had with us were fabulous.

My romantic history was summarised very succinctly a few years ago by EC, ‘ Face it Mummy, first there was Conall (first boyfriend age 17 -20), then there was Daddy (age 20 -39) and then there were sausage rolls (age 39 to present)’

I had thought by now that I would have been married to Dick Strawbridge or Levison Wood ( I definitely have a type). However, in the interim Dick got married putting him out of contention. The last I heard (i.e. Googled) the Lovely Lev is still on the market – so if anyone has his number, do pass on my details. I think we would be perfect for each other.

Given that my social life revolves around knitting, Mass and solitary walks with Judgmental Yorkie chances for romance are thin on the ground.

JY looking wistful on the Holywood coastal path yesterday.

In addition my limited efforts in flirting in person were not hugely successful either. I did meet a lovely author one night at an event with Mother (see, out with my Mother – the glamour!) who I fancied the knickers off. However too much gin nervous gin drinking led me to discussing ‘times past’ and that put paid to that. I did order his books off Amazon and mooned over his tiny picture like I used to with ‘The Edge’ in the Jackie in the 1980’s – but eventually I wised up.

Having bored all my friends with my lamenting and keening I accepted their pleading to ‘get online’. Several had them had tried this and had a great combination of horror stories and happy endings. The one common thread was that within seconds of logging on I would be ‘inundated’ with smiles / winks and offers.

I did my research, checked my bank balance (true love doesn’t come cheap) and elected to definitely NOT pick anything which would involve a swipe!

The next stage of this epic was filling in the questionnaire. Holy God, getting my degree was less stressful.

I decided honesty was the best policy. As a result I launched myself into cyberspace as:

a) ‘Malcom Tucker meets Jean Brodie’

b) Radio 4 fan

c) Witty & Intelligent

d) Requires well read man who understands nuance and looks good in Gortex.

Now how hard should that have been? I also added hillwalking – everybody says hillwalking but in my case it is actually true. Mind you, given the number of people who write it, the hills should be littered with eligible men. The two days I spent in the Mournes this week should have been like shooting desirable, attractive fish in a barrel. Alas this was not the case and there was a definite scarcity of opportunities.


I added my picture and sat back and waited for the offers to roll in, and waited and waited and waited…..

Cue stock pictures of tumbleweed, calendar pages ripping off and swirling newspapers with appropriate seasonal references.

It seems that Radio 4 listeners who enjoy hillwalking, fibre arts and intellectual snobbery are not as readily available as the saucy tales of my friends would have suggested.

However, one day in late summer a ‘smile’ landed in my in box and my American adventure began……

A whisper of silk….

A very Happy St Patrick’s Day one and all. How was your week? I’ve has a lovely week – the work ‘thing’ went well – I led with a red lip and red nails (I have absolutely no idea what that means, but my daughter’s said it was a good idea and it seemed to work). EC passed his driving test and is now facing the grim reality of the cost of getting a keeping a car on the road, but he’s all delighted, and so am I.

The coveted ‘R’ plates

As the kids all head off into town to celebrate the national saint with green beer, i’m reminded of an earlier St. Patrick’s day. When the children were small I would regularly plan outdorsey, creative ‘saggy titted tree hugging’ stuff. Even now when I make a suggestion for an outing there is a great deal of retina detaching eye rolling and mutters of ‘Oh Christ, Mummy’s gone all National Trust again’. So.… for EC’s first St Patrick’s Day, I thought it would be rather jolly to turn his milk green and make buns with green icing. DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME – the nappy produced by this concoction is not to be recommended.

Having had time to reflect on my single status, I decided to try and move things along at bit.

So, as Benjamin Franklin (and every facilitator at any shite management conference you have ever attended) observed, ‘Fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. The quest for pulling pants began.

My relationship with underwear can be best described as functional. I appreciate that this is unusual – for example – when the Bolter, bolted one of the key items she brought with her was her bag of good pants. I would be hard pressed to fill an envelope with good pants never mind a bag. I am also very scared of the women who work in knicker shops – they are really intimidating. This wasn’t helped by a woman in House of Fraser actually snorting when I went in and asked to be fitted for a sports bra. Actually snorted!

In order to avoid a repeat of this humiliation I turned to online shopping. One such purchase a number of years ago promised ‘a whisper of silk’ hmmmmmmm – that’s not quite what it was like. The garments themselves were perfectly fine, it was the wearer that had the issues. Picture Mr Pickwick with his rotund belly or Harry Seacombe in his later years. Well that’s what I looked like in a pair of red French knickers.

The current knicker hunting odyssey had three key stages.

Stage 1: Ann Summers ‘It’s very tasteful, so everybody said’. ‘Let’s give it a go’, said one of my knitting pals and one Wednesday we found ourselves slinking into the Belfast store. We entered commando style (as in tuck and roll rather than not wearing any pants) for fear that any of the students I teach spotted me on this particular excursion. We wandered around for a while deeply out of our comfort zone, and it is true, much of the lingerie was very tasteful, we didn’t venture ‘downstairs’. I was at the point of making a purchase when we spotted a man lurking furtively round ‘things in cans’ and I ran away. I’m ashamed to say – I ran out of that shop like a five year old, as did my mate.

Stage 2: MC and I went to Dublin for the day to see the giraffes in the zoo.

We’re very fond of an aul giraffe

We decided that having travelled all that way we might as well take a wee trip into Victoria’s Secret. Holy God. It was like walking into a night club, i’m more of a chess club kind of gal. There were low lights and thumping music and gorgeous people and very tiny knickers as far as the eye could see. It was a whole new language – who knew there were so many words to describe tiny pants. After several circuits I was beginning to despair, there was no chance of buying a bra, most of them seemed to have bits missing, but I did actually buy pants.

Actual footage of my pants!

Third time lucky – I eventually decided that if I was going to have any success buying grown up underwear, I was going to have to go myself. The next Wednesday on my way to knitting (i’m so bad ass) I called into Boux Avenue. I must have looked very out of place because very soon a lovely shop assistant took pity on me and came over. She gently took the bra I was holding out of my had and shook her head. ‘Is it for a special occasion?’ How do you answer that?? Then she asked the most bizarre question I have ever encountered. ‘What do you want your bust to communicate?’ What do you say to that? Eventually I came up with ‘keen but not desperate’ This seem to make sense and soon I was in a changing room with a whole range of lovely things to try on. While the assistant was demonstrating the ‘swoop and scoop’ a strange contortion where you literally heave your boobs into the cup from underneath in order to achieve a good fit – who knew? It was during this operation that my phone rang – it was my mother. Known for her tenacity, when I didn’t answer the first three times she kept on ringing. So on the fourth attempt, I answered with ‘Mummy i’m standing in a tiny room with a strange lady who has her hands on my chesticles’. She rang off. I did call later and explain.

Within a relatively short time I was leaving the store with several lovely boxes filled with tissue paper ‘good pants’.

Now the only this left to do was to find someone to mesmerise with my feminine wiles………