Wednesday, 16 July 2014

And now the News....

Last week, I wrote a post sharing a wee bit of good news with you. I read over it, edited it, added links to it and finally hit 'post', and then somehow inexplicably and extremely annoyingly, I managed to permanently delete it. Grrrrr!

 Since then I've had a birthday- forty three since you ask- which sounds 'sooooo old!' or 'still quite young!' depending on who you ask. And me? Without wishing to sound trite, the older I get the more appreciative I am to just be here at all.

But back to my news. (Yep, my light's still on!) Two weeks ago I got an email telling me that I had received a full bursary to attend the John Hewitt International Summer School later this month.
 A whole delicious week to attend lectures, talks and workshops, to listen and percolate in the literature and poetry of the likes of Bernard Mc Laverty, Joseph O'Connor and Ruth Padel- basically to soak up inspiration and knowledge and words to my hearts content. I'll even get to hear Michael D Higgins, the President of Ireland speak, (while simultaneously assessing his likeness to an actual leprechaun IRL.)

Did I also mention that the bursary also includes a bed to myself and a full Irish breakfast every morning? And is it wrong that I'm just as excited about these as all that literary stuff? No shopping for groceries, no meals to plan, no laundry to sort, no refereeing the endless in car bickering, no 'if that doesn't stop by the time I count to three...'. I could go on but you get the picture. I'm excited. Much.

And honestly? I'm also a little nervous too because you see, I've never done anything like this before, like never. Yes, myself and Himself have been lucky enough to get a few days away together on our own from time to time over the years but alone? Just l'il old me? Never.

And it's not as though I look back and realise that I always had a burning desire to write. To my shame, I never even did GCSE English Literature at school, and certainly no teacher ever pulled me aside to mention any special talents...in anything really.

Looking back, I can see that I just drifted aimlessly along the well trodden paths of others, familiar yes, but with no real insight or self awareness into what lit me up and made me tick and feel truly alive.

And yet somehow, all these years later, and quite by chance I've felt an awakening in my soul-a love for words and a desire to write honestly, about everything and nothing. A need to purge the words onto a page or screen, and to feel the satisfaction creep through me when I do.

 Wise people say we should write what we know. The thing is, what I know is often the mundane and ordinary stuff-the nuts and bolts of an everyday parenting life. But still, writing about it scratches an itch I didn't even know I had, and when it sometimes resonates with others as well,  then that's the flake in my 99!

This year, I went to a writing class and through that I also began to hear about local literary festivals and events I was never aware of before, like The John Hewitt International Summer School in Armagh. Our teacher had told us about the bursaries available, so I filled in a brief online form, explaining why I'd like to attend, and what I'd like to learn, and then a few weeks later -whoop, whoop- I got the email! Just A little bit of luck...and maybe they felt sorry for me, because I may possibly have dropped in 'five kids and not a minute's peace!' in the 'Why you?' Question.

I tried explaining all this to my mum but she just won't listen, because in her mind, I've just won the equivalent of the Man Booker Prize, or possibly become the new Poet Laureate. It doesn't matter at all that she's (thankfully) never read my blog- she's only just learned to google Boden- so she explains vaguely (and a little bit worryingly) to her friends that's it all about me being an unfit mother... or something.

This new information has clearly upped the ante though, and an unmissable opportunity for publicity arose when a new M&S opened in Belfast last week, so on its opening day, the vast majority of Belfast's over 35 female population arrived en masse to give it their seal of approval. My mother, of course, was among them, and after extensive browsing, followed by afternoon tea in the new cafe, it seemed that she punched in the next few hours happily bumping into familiar faces in the flowers and plants department.

 'Seven different people!' She delightedly informed me. 'And all just on our way out the door, and of course I told them ALL about your prestigious award.
'What?,' I said alarmed. 'It's not an award! It's just the chance to listen to proper authors talking, and a few workshops to hopefully get inspired myself, and then there's the free breakfast.'

 But the shutters were down and she was clearly having none of it.
'Nonsense. You're always putting yourself down. It's an award,' She said firmly, and the conversation was closed.

So if you DO meet my one woman PR machine in the new M&S, just to clarify, it's most certainly NOT an award, but for goodness sake, don't tell her that...just nod and smile unless you want the head taken off you. And award or no, I'm still well chuffed, and feeling a bit like this actually.

Later lovelies xx

Monday, 7 July 2014

A Story of Two Dogs

Oscar Wilde once said, with his typical acerbic wit,
'To lose one parent may be regarded as a misfortune; to lose both looks like carelessness.'
I wonder if  the same applies to dogs, because unbelievable as it may seem, we as a family, have lost two dogs in one short year.

The first was Arthur, a black cockapoo puppy, who confusingly for all involved was actually called Coburn first. Don't even ask why we had to change it, it's just too ridiculous, and as it happened, we needn't have bothered, because he had such a short little life anyway. He died instantly under a tractor one blustery October morning when he was only five months old.

The boys saw it happen and they took it very hard. We just hoped that in the long run, they would learn lessons about grief and dying and perhaps ultimately, living.
So four months later, and not wishing this sorry experience of dog ownership to be their sole and lasting one, we acquired Dora, a lovely white four year old Bichon frise cross, whose owner had just started college and with her parents working , this meant  Dora was alone for most of the day.

At first she seemed perfect- no horrid housetraining , no manky dog breath  (unlike Arthur- maybe its a boy thing?), very little shedding AND she kept herself very clean. Being four and past the puppy
stage, she wasn't completely mental either- she didn't obsessively steal shoes, chew everything in sight and roll ecstatically in slurry. It was all good.

But then gradually problems emerged. Despite putting her bed in a 'quiet'  utility room, our house must have been noisy and mad and strange to her.  Clearly unused to children,  she quickly developed a preference for Himself, and worryingly, occasionally growled when Luke petted/pulled/ tortured her.

Of course, this put my guard up immediately, especially after I googled growling, and learned that this usually happened when a dog felt threatened and worse, often preempted a bite.
After that, I  never left them alone together, just in case. I"m pretty sure I put my own bonding with Dora on hold at this point too.

There was the manic barking when anyone approached the house, which got old really fast, but it was when she snapped at two  neighbours' children, simply because she hated their bicycles that we made the tough decision that we had to let her go- there are some risks just not worth taking.

Thankfully her old owner was happy to take her back, and changed circumstances meant that Dora would no longer be left alone all day.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and I suppose that looking back, we should have known that an adult dog would find it very difficult to adapt to a much noisy, busy household, especially after growing up in a quiet house, with no children. We should have known, and we didn't, but now we do.

So what now? Speaking for myself, I  feel a bit drained after trying to bond and adapt to two different dogs over the course of one year, and honestly, if it were up to me, I'd draw a big old line under the whole dog  thing and tick that box in my head.  You see, it feels as if we've had all the emotional investment, teething problems and settling in issues of getting a dog, TWICE, without ever reaching a plateau of calm predictability with either. If I'm honest I even feel a little cheated.

And yet our family dog experience won't end there, it just can't and I know this. The older four wept bitterly and railed against the difficult decision we had to make last week, cajoling and begging, unable to understand that really, there was no decision to make. It was very hard to say goodbye, aided only by the fact that deep down we all knew Dora would be more settled and happier for it, and really, she was going home.

 So now here we are, back to square one as a dog free household once more, except this time we're a little more experienced and a little less blasé about it all. The leads and the chew toys, the bowls and the dog bed have quietly been moved into an old cardboard box in the garage....at least for now.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Almost Perfect

There are some moments as a parent that I couldn't possibly make up, and If I'm honest, I wouldn't actually want to. Yesterday held one such moment.

We had just enjoyed a spontaneous early evening swim in the ocean, which was just as wonderful as it sounds-that precious combination of a balmy evening and a beautiful Donegal beach just couldn't be wasted so off we went- Himself, myself and four of the kids, a blanket, a towel and two spades between us.

And having read this and having done this , I was determined not to let my jelly belly and wobbly thighs get in the way of a frolic in the sea with the children. So I braced myself and stripped off and after the first few excruciating moments it was fine, and we played and splashed and swam and dunked.
Then after a wee while, it was time to go - toddlers still get tired and boys still start bickering, even on the most gorgeous of evenings, and very quickly the perfect moment had passed and it all became a 'Right! Let's get this feckin' show on the road, ASAP'.

 I was just drying off a whinging Luke when Rory suddenly stopped mindlessly kicking sand over the blanket, stared transfixed at Luke's tummy, and declared 'Woah! what's that horrible stuff coming out of his belly button?'

 I looked down swiftly, at a belly button that certainly appeared to be oozing something green. Dear God, had he contracted some kind of gross belly button infection that I'd somehow missed? Should we bring him to hospital right now? Would he need an antibiotic?

 Meanwhile,  Rory was now kneeling down and examining Luke's belly button with fascinated interest, before nodding slowly and delivering his verdict,
 'It's okay, don't worry, it's just snot! He's got bogers in his belly button! Then he added delightedly  'Ugh yuck, that's disgusting!'

As I calmly wiped the offending belly button with our communal towel, I simply felt relief that no
trip to the after hours trip doctor was required, while Luke beamed proudly as the tale of the gross belly button was relived with relish all the way back to the Caravilla.

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

Monday, 30 June 2014

The Rosie Project-A Holiday Read

For years I read voraciously...then I had a children and for a while only read Hello, OK and later Grazia. But over the last year or so I've been making a conscious effort to do it old style-step away from the ipad and pick up a book. I even joined another bookclub, after my original one ran its course, and this month one of the ladies chose "The Rosie Project" by Graeme Simison.

This Australian  book has taken the cricics by storm-it's written in the first person as Don Tillman, a thirty-nine year old geneticist, apparently with Asperger's Syndrome. Never having had a second date, we see what happens when he embarks on an experimental and scientific project of finding himself a wife.
 Don's narrative is endearing, sometimes uplifting, often hilarious but never condescending. His developing relationship with Rosie -'the world's most incompatible woman' has all the challenges, complications  and misconceptions of any relationship, and a whole lot more besides. It becomes increasingly obvious that just because Don cannot adequately express or even identify his growing alien feelings for Rosie, doesn't mean that he doesn't feel their depth and influence.

I started the book in the Newark airpost and was well through it by the time I touched down in the 'fast. The litmus test came though when I passed it on to Loverboy (who has a goldfish' concentration span when it comes to books-if it hasnt gripped him by the first page he's outta there) and he's loving
it. Between you and me, I think the nerd in him just totally 'gets' how Don's mind works....if you know what I mean.
What fascinated me was the interview the author gave at the end, describing where his ideas for the book had come from, and how long it took to get from there to eventual publication.

I absolutely took heart in the fact that
1. The book took seven years to develop, and evolve into the final draft.
2. He only started to write properly in his forties. 
3. He read a book about how to write a screenplay first because he thought he couldnt write a novel.
4. He is now a highly successful author.
Maybe there's hope for us all?

There's no doubt in my mind that this book WILL become a movie, so he may well use that screenplay yet. Personally, I can see someone like Steven Mangan as Don Tillman, Zooey Deschanel as Rosie and maybe George Clooney as Gene, his older highly sexed friend and colleague, but who knows! Either way though, read the book, or you'll be missing a treat.
 Later lovelies xx