She has a fine seat on a horse

Hello again, I hope you had a good week. All good here. I had a particularly great day yesterday, spending time with friends.


During the day I was in The Dock honesty box café with Belfast Stitch and Bitch ( and we did a lot of both). Later I headed out to dinner with my BE friends as one of our number is heading off to Australia for a month. BE is a church group supporting people who are divorced, separated or widowed. For many years Mother and I took the piss and referred to it as ‘divorced, beheaded, died’ but actually it is wonderful ( yep, i’m churchy – who would have thought !). We do not, as EC suggests, sit round crying and talk about our ex husbands. There were lots of tears last night, but they were tears of laughter and at 3am when I was delivering weary travellers home, our ex’s were the last things on our mind.

So, I am broadcasting today very tired but mercifully clear headed (I was driving). So, the horse…..

As part of my ‘trying not to die’ campaign last summer I did a lot of walking with the girls. On one trip MC and I went to some camping pods in the Glens of Antrim to hike and have a horse picnic (seated on, not made from). There was a slightly tricky moment when they led out a spritely Follyfoot style mount for me and then, having noted my girth, reconsidered and called for ‘Flo’ who had a generous hint of Clydesdale.

It’s a great idea, someone quad bikes your picnic to the top of the hill, you ride up, eat, chill and ride back down. So far so good. I am a reasonably competent horsewoman, although as I am abbreviated in stature I do resemble your wee dame Thelwell. MC can actually ride very well. Our picnic came to an end and as we still had some time left the ‘horse lady’ suggested we do some paddock work. This was the moment when I SHOULD have said, ‘i’m grand, you and MC work away.’

It all started out quite smoothly, we moved around the paddock at a sedate rising trot. Unfortunately, i’m not gifted at horse whispering and while I thought my knees were saying ‘fine girl you are Flo, keep trotting away’ my equine pal heard ‘let’s canter’. I promptly lost a stirrup and in my increasing agitation thought it would be an idea to take one hand off the reins to try to fix it, listing me dangerously to starboard.

Now what follows is my honest recollection, MC disputes the timeline (falsely alleging I pissed myself causing the fall). Picture the scene, it has been a lovely but long afternoon ‘in the saddle’, followed by a rising trot and then an out of control canter….. As I began my gentle descent from an upright position I lost my other stirrup and everything suddenly felt, slick. Yep, I was experiencing a moment of not even slight bladder weakness. It was the perfect storm, fast moving horse, no stirrups and lubrication. Apparently it was the most middle class fall in history. MC observing from the other end of the ring, heard my plaintive cries of ‘excuse me, excuse me’ and noted me moving towards the rails hanging upside down around Flo’s neck. Gravity eventually won and I hit the ground with a thud.

I was terrified, I had a worrying pain in my lower back and that awful cold feeling in my gusset. Horse lady ran to my side and did all sort of spinal checks, meanwhile MC had to ride across the paddock to corral a slightly disgruntled Flo who was ‘pure scundered’ and probably chafing.

When Horse Lady suggested that I get up, I was a touch reluctant, and I repeatedly growled, ‘just give me a minute.’ Eventually I managed to get to my feet and the relief of not being paralysed was obscured by the indignity of having furry trousers where the sawdust had stuck to my damp pants!

After completing the fastest accident report in history I drove gingerly back to the campsite and straight to the shower. Sometime in the middle of the night – I was not asleep, despite a generous dose of painkillers, I heard the dangerous word ‘Muuuuummmmmy’. Yes? ‘Just a thought, did it never occur to you to say “stop” or ” woah” to the horse – I don’t think Flo spoke Radio 4?’

The only residual damage was a very sore back which could only be soothed by a hot water bottle….……….

I’ve been swimming in open water!

Hello again,

I hope you had a good week. I was on half term so it was all good here, just lurking about with friends, knitting and populating my all weather bookcase (mini greenhouse). There was a slightly shifty moment whenever I found myself in floods of tears looking at the children’s utensils in the garden centre – but I put this down to ‘my age’ and ploughed on.

Anyway …..as promised, the story of the stroke…. In June of last year YC and I were on the Scout Parent and Child weekend (it used to be the father and son weekend, but we’re all PC now). This is a great tradition which was reintroduced a few years ago. Being a ‘lone parent’ ( I prefer this to ‘single parent’ – it puts me in mind of a lone wolf – a bit badass, the irony!) I have always gone along to these camps and done EVERYTHING – just in case my children felt left out. In reality they have always been more scundered than impressed, but on this particular weekend, I had walked, climbed, swam (in open water – more later) and eaten more processed meat and white bread than is good for a person. It was great craic. The Sunday afternoon tradition is to climb Slemish mountain, but I told a very disgruntled YC that I didn’t feel up to it.

I hadn’t slept well the night before, and in the time I did sleep I snored so loudly that one of the other ‘Mummies’ actually slept outside on the bowling green to avoid the noise. On Sunday morning I felt ‘odd’, I can’t describe it any other way – but I just knew something was different / off.

Having arrived home (and put the dirty washing in the machine) I sat down for a rest and a knit. I knit all the time and was anticipating a relaxing afternoon. However….. as I sat in my chair with needles and yarn in my hands – I couldn’t do it. Not in a Sartre, existential crisis sort of a way, I simply couldn’t get the message from my brain to my hands. It was like having a jigsaw puzzle where all the edges are straight. I was still putting this oddness down to tiredness so I went upstairs to lie down.

My current project – the Hitchhiker scarf

I realised very quickly that something was very wrong – this was a very odd kind of oddness. I called downstairs to MC for help. Unfortunately, MC had taken advantage of my absence and thrown quite a party the night before. This had involved the (previous agreed) burning of the old rabbit hutch (sans bunny) in the garden and a number of concerned phone calls from neighbours. As a result she was feeling a shade delicate and a touch reluctant to mount the stairs. However, she did come, took one look at me and reached for the phone.

Paragraph six, in which the story pauses a little (OMG, last week Charlotte Bronte, this week George Eliot – have I no shame?) In our house, we are essentially not very nice people, almost nothing is sacred when it comes to making in-house jokes. One of these activities was a family parody on the TV Stroke advert….. you know the one, FACE, ARMS, SPEECH, TIME! At all sorts of inopportune moments, in church, family gatherings, supermarkets etc, when one person shouted ‘face’ someone else had to follow with ‘arms’ etc. It was this habit in appalling taste that probably saved my life.

When MC came up to the room – despite the fact that ‘inside my head’ everything was fine, she was able to see that my left hand side was not the same as the right. She called the ambulance and immediately the operator started taking her through the checklist. There was an awkward moment when MC started pissing herself laughing in the middle of the 999 call. I’m hoping that the ambulance operator put it down to nerves, but it was actually a moment of macabre humour in the middle of a very scary situation. While this call was in progress, the fast car having already been dispatched, I experienced a pain in my head which was utterly indescribable – it gets the name ‘thunderclap headache’ and they are not joking.

The ambulance car arrived followed quickly by the ambulance, there was a flurry of activity, during which I believed I was making complete sense. I was quickly transported to the local emergency department accompanied by MC. She was still feeling rather fragile and was a distinct shade of green. One of my more vocal ramblings on this journey was ‘I was swimming in open water’ – I repeated this over and over. Eventually a very bemused ambulance man looked at MC with a ‘what the hell?’ expression. The eyeroll that followed nearly dislocated her retinas, she replied, ‘ she’s a fu***ng Geography teacher, she thinks she’s got Weil’s disease.’ To his eternal credit he managed not to laugh!

A swift trip to the hospital, a worryingly short wait in the corridor and a great deal of excellent care from the staff of the Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast got me back on my feet. This was by way of some fascinating things in a drip, a scan a lumbar puncture (not a lot of laughs there) and some stern conversations about lifestyle, stress etc brought me to discharge. A bit fragile, very fuzzy, totally shaken, but mercifully still me.

Cushendun – one of our favourite walking venues

I would love to say that in the coming weeks I transformed into a sylph like kale lover with a wardrobe full of lycra. Weeeeeeeeeelllll, not quite, but I did do a lot more walking and camping last summer, which brings me to, the horse………

This is me .….

Hello,

A couple of weeks ago on the eve of my 46th birthday (that sounds as if someone called Bronte should be writing it – although I can’t promise the same level of literary quality here) I was reflecting on the year which had passed. All in all it was pretty crap – two house burglaries (same housed robbed twice, I don’t have two houses), car accident, stresses at work, and the Stroke, Horse and Hot Water Bottle of the title (more later). In order to break out of this Eyeore inspired reverie I decided to write a blog focussing on things and people which make me smile. Nothing more complicated than that.

I live and work in Belfast and share a shambolic semi with my three children. There was a husband but I disposed of him some years ago, don’t panic, I didn’t kill him. He has, and I quote, ‘put all that unhappiness behind him and moved on with his life’ he’s living far away with wife number two, so you won’t be hearing about him again.

My three children are well along the road of growing up. My eldest child (EC) is a son, age 20, who lives at home and goes to university. My middle child (MC) is a daughter, age 18, who is studying at the local Further Education College, and youngest child (YC) is another daughter, age 15, who is at Grammar school. I had given them amusing nicknames which reflected their personalities. However their reaction to this was sufficient in its profanity to bring Mary Whitehouse back from the dead. We are a rather sweary bunch. There is one other permanent resident – the Judgmental Yorkie (JY) – we adore her and she is the only creature we never fall out with, even when she farts on your face in bed.

Judgmental Yorkie

To explain the strap line….Middle Class and Middle Aged are fairly self explanatory – I listen to Radio 4 and am forty six. The moist does not, refer to a state of permanent erotic readiness, rather, I’m forty six, I’ve had three children and these days even the most gentle exertion can have damp consequences!

In terms of ideology – I can be found to the right of Opus Dei and to the left of Kier Hardie – sometimes at the same time. It really depends on the issue. So at some point in the future I will probably insult everyone, apologies in advance.

So that’s us! Hopefully over the next weeks and months you will join me in my musings and enjoy the journey. Before I go, i’ll share the names of a few dramatis personae who will crop up in future messages (in alphabetical order )

  • BE girls
  • Mother
  • Rosa
  • School Pals
  • The Bolter, Mr Bolter and the Bons
  • The Knitters

I have also set up a Twitter account to go with the blog – unfortunately it has a slightly saucy handle because I didn’t read the bit about how long it should be. I can be found at @Thestroketheho1 – which sounds significantly more risqué than it actually is! Please feel free to get in touch or leave a comment below.

Next week I shall share the story of the Stroke and the Horse……..