You could still get pregnant ….even at your age

Hello everyone, did you have a nice Easter? I’ve had a great week footering about and not doing very much in particular. I had planned to write about my walking adventures this – but as I didn’t actually walk the length of myself in the last seven days, that would be a tiny bit hypocritical – maybe next week.

I did manage to finally complete a cross stitch for MC. She has been asking for months – i’m moving on next to a montage of the family’s favourite curse words – it should be ready by the time YC graduates!

I did however get a few jobs done, one of which was booking my next sneer (smear) test. There was a slightly awkward moment three years ago at the last sneer. I was on the couch all stirruped up – the nurse was focused down the business end with her canary and davy lamp (a line I have nicked from the Bolter) when she asks, ‘so what type of contraception are you using?’ ‘None – I replied’ ‘Oh????????? – are you trying for a baby?’ at this point her rather bewildered face appeared from between my knees.

‘No, not trying for a baby’ – clearly at this point the poor nurse thought she was dealing with some sort of half wit. She abandoned her prodding and came and sat beside me, rubbing my arm in a reassuring way speaking in her slowest most pastoral (patronising ) voice she explained that even when you are as old as me (43) you can still get pregnant if you have unprotected sex – not to mention catching something that might require an ungent and an antibiotic.’ Now, you have to imagine that the next sentence I uttered began low and by the end could be heard throughout all of Ireland’s 32 counties and possibly beyond.

‘ Nurse, it’s not a problem, because I haven’t actually had sex with anyone since the 2nd November 2012!!!!!!’ (This was 2016) The rest of the test was conducted in a shocked silence and I was soon on my way. It would have been ok had the door to the nurse’s office not led directly to the waiting room – I sympathetic glances (and appraising looks!) as I walked out were awful. I even heard someone mutter, ‘God love her, November 2012 is a while ago.

‘Having said all that, it’s an important thing to do – so next week – I think I will just lie and tell her that I’ve had to take out shares in a rubber plantation i’m doing that much shagging. I wonder will she believe me?

Have a lovely week…….talk soon….

In the psychiatrist’s chair….almost

Hello again,

I’ve had a lovely week. On Thursday night, Mother and I went to YC school concert. It was brilliant, and naturally, I cried. There were a wide range of performances, although I’m yet to be convinced by the ‘Irish dancing / African Drums’ fusion number. Maybe I’m just not sophisticated enough?

On Friday night I was out on the town with my school pal Gill. It was one of those wonderful evenings where conversations from, five, ten and even thirty years ago just get picked up as if it was yesterday.

Me with my school pals, Gill is the one in the light blue cable jumper, Sharon is top left and Vohn bottom right. I’m the one with the very bad perm. If you look closely you will see I’m sporting a brooch on my sweatshirt – brooches were my thing in the ’80’s!! The pony tail is being secured by a length of black lace. It was a cruel decade.

Anyway….. following ‘Trumpgate’ I swore off internet dating. I studiously ignored my phone, but when another smile ‘pinged’ I couldn’t resist a skelly. It looked promising – a Scottish psychiatrist working at a local hospital. After the usual rounds of likes / dislikes / etc we got chatting properly and it all seemed to be going swimmingly. There had been a slight wrinkle when I corrected him on a point of grammar – this did not impress.

The trouble is, I wasn’t really designed for admiring ‘baskets of kittens’ while the menfolk do the thinking. I was getting the impression that SP (Scottish Psychiatrist) was used to being the cleverest boy in the room.

On Christmas night – things took a turn. We had been chatting about inconsequential stuff (including the fact that he would only give Katherine Hepburn 97/100 – that should have been my clue), when he sent the following message,

‘So how long have you been single – or in other words – when was the last time you had any sort of relationship? Short term, long term relationship, very short / fling….’

Talk about a change of pace!!!!! It was like one of those questionnaires they give you at the beginning of a new round of counselling. On a side note, I once refused to fill in one of those ‘ have you got post natal depression?’ handouts you get after having a baby. At the time I was most definitely post natally depressed – but the form wasn’t photocopied onto the page straight! That told them all they needed to know.

In order to diffuse what was becoming a rather serious conversation – I jokingly (why will I never learn) observed that The American had been jettisoned because of his voting preferences. Well……….. clearly all the clever boys defend each other.

He was fuming. Didn’t I know all the good things Trump had done? Where was I getting my (flawed) information? For the record – BBC, CNN, Newsweek, The Guardian, The Times, National Geographic ( and to be fair – Private Eye)

PS That’s JY looking distinctly Headshrinky in her turtleneck.

This went back and forth for a while. I probably should have climbed (or fallen given my history) off my high horse, but I just couldn’t. His final message observed that he didn’t want to meet someone who was strongly opinionated and that he was blocking my number. Phew!

How was I attracting these delights?? My knitting friend ‘Lovely Sharon’ who does clever things with Apps, explained that because I had mentioned faith and religion on my profile the algorithm could be skewing the results to the right. Fair enough, I wasn’t prepared to change or deny this part of my life so I took a different tack.

I logged onto ‘Romances allied to Rome’ (or something like that) and got stuck in. The questionnaire was thorough to say the least. There are now men all over the world who know my favourite saint (St Joseph) my thoughts on contraception (that would be a yes) and my preferred form of the liturgy…….

Once again I went with honesty…. possibly a mistake.

Following my ‘revelation’ that I was the proud owner of a degree absolute, a tattoo and a gay child it turned out there weren’t too many matches. I think they may have formed a committee to resurrect Dante Alighieri in order that he can create a new ring of hell just for me.

So here I am – stuck between a rock and a hard place (or not!) – too straitlaced for mainstream sites, too radical for the Holy Joes. I am distinctly niche.

What to do?? Well, I’ve decided to try the ‘clubs and societies’ route.

I’ve signed up for Classical Greek, Philosophy and Walking with Mensans (The Bolter unkindly observed that the last one sounded like living with a chronic condition). I am genuinely interested in all of this so its not just about ‘ Mancatching’ – but you never know.

Next week – Stroke, Horse, Hot – Origins…..

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………

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……..