Monday, 5 July 2021

OUTDOOR LIVING IN THE COUNTRY OF SUNNY SPELLS AND SCATTERED SHOWERS

     
                                                      photo by Maarten Van den Heuvel.


Dear Reader, 
Please note that from July 2021, This Funny Irish Life has a new home over on Wordpress. For all my new columns, find me HERE.

Many thanks, and I hope to see you there!
S. 




THERE'S a man up in Donegal, he might be a retired postman, who predicts the weather. Not just the day to day stuff like the rest of us. A bit more long term than that. For example, he predicted the 'big snow' of 20I0, when heavy falls brought the country to a halt for about three weeks. 

I don't even have a weather app on my phone. Apart from the fact that they're famously unreliable, if I want to check the weather for the day, I look at the sky. If it's blue with some of those white bubbly clouds, I know we're going to have a good day.

If it's heavy and grey, with even darker clouds coming over the horizon, I can confidently predict rain. And if it's just looking a bit meh, I opt for a Met Eireann* approach. 'Today will be a mixture of sunny spells with scattered showers, although there may be heavier rain in places.' 

As a child, I used to think that our weather service actually decided what sort of weather we would get. Perhaps I wasn't the brightest bulb in the light fitting, but I think it had something to do with my mother's approach to the 'sunny spells and scattered showers' predictions. As a keen gardener, she'd explain that plants and flowers needed a healthy mix of sun and water to thrive.

She'd actually become anxious if there was no rain for a week, especially if the government then declared a national water shortage and a hose pipe ban. It was like living on a farm without the livestock. Or the land, obviously. 

Anyway, back to the man in Donegal. The kind of weather he predicts is more long term. Which doesn't mean he's one of those climatologists. Not as far as I know. Instead, he says that he carries on the old traditions of predicting what sort of summer or winter we're about to have in Ireland. He observes things like animals and insects, and how birds are behaving. A bit like the groundhog in the US, I suppose. Without the festival. But mid-May this year, he declared a magnificent summer ahead.  

'Really?' I folded my arms at the time and peered doubtfully out the window, where hailstones the size of gobstoppers were bouncing off the paths.   
'It's true.' The husband handed me the newspaper article. We still buy newspapers in our house. There's something wonderfully reassuring about opening an actual newspaper, its print smudging your fingers. It beats scrolling through your phone any day. I read the piece and sighed. 

It was around the same time that given that only half of our population was  vaccinated, rain, hail, biting winds or scorching sun aside, we were in for what the government termed 'an outdoor summer'. 

In our village, where you're rapidly becoming a pariah if you dare to drive - there is a new snobbery amongst hardcore cyclists - whole areas, including one small road around our village green have become outdoor restaurants.

Actually, that's rather nice. Burgers and chips or plates of pasta gain elevated status when they're being served under canopies in the street. And even lovlier when you don't need to wear a thermal vest and sit on top of a patio heater to enjoy them. Continental eating but with Irish pricetags. Still, you can't have everything. 

But it seems the old ways of predicting the weather - whatever they are - are actually true. We're having a great summer here. Not the sort of summer our continental cousins can regularly boast, obviously. Because even when the natives are flashing the flesh, our baffled foreign visitors are still wandering around wearing designer sweaters and those little pouches belted around their waists with foldup rain jackets. No faith, any of them.

Still, it's a good Irish summer. Some days temperatures have hit highs of 26 degrees celcius. Nobody minds when the rain comes. The farmers need it, the grass needs it, my tomato plants in growbags on my patio need it. And lookit, why else do we have the canopies in the street? Sunny spells and scattered showers: so long as there's more of the first bit, we'll be happy. 

*Met Eireann: The Irish national weather service. 

                                                      *

Dear reader, please note that as from July, 2021, this blog has moved to a new home over on Wordpress. I hope you follow me over there and subscribe for free to receive my monthly coloumns straight to your email. As always, your email address will never be shared or misused in any way. The link for This Funny Irish Life can be found below. Hope to see you there. 
Hugs, 
Sharon.
💚

This Funny Irish Life

Monday, 7 June 2021

THE ANTIDOTE TO LOCKDOWN: ROLL OUT THE RETAIL THERAPY.

 





WE'VE reached yet another stage of Lifting The Restrictions here in Ireland. As Vaccines roll out, as the numbers in our hospitals decline, what we hilariously refer to as non-essential retail has finally reopened. 

It's considered non-essential, because it's basically clothes shops. During our 'essential retail only' part of Covid Lockdown, our food shops stayed open (obviously). Ditto our cafés, but only for take-outs. And pharmacies, hardware stores and electrical stores were all deemed daily necessities.  

But not new knickers. Or socks. Or any children's clothes, apparently. I have visions of parents all over the country, sternly warning their young brood to press the growth pause button, as the months roll by.

My own three have passed that stage and in fairness, the girls and I are very much at the sock-sharing stage of our lives. If nothing else. Not to mention that essentials like figure hugging mini-skirt or cute floral-motif zip-up jackets arrive almost weekly in brown paper packages, bound up with heavy duty sticky-tape. We're thinking of inviting the postman to our family reunion this summer.  

That said, there was probably less excitement on D-day, than when Penneys reopens after five months of closure. Penneys (Primark when it's abroad) is Ireland's iconic (and cheap) fast-fashion chain. The bigger ones sell everything from home furnishings to clothes, shoes, makeup and accessories for the whole family.

Tourists to our little island flock to Penneys and fill suitcases for everyone they've ever met. During the first week of its reopening, you had to book an appointment for an hour's shopping time. After that, there are queues around the block. 

The day before it reopens, The Middle One announces she is taking the Penneys plunge. 
'What do you need?' I demand. She's like royalty, rarely wears the same outfit twice. 
'Knickers and socks.' This in a very reasonable tone. Too reasonable, I think. I know when I'm being softened up. She'll go in for essential underwear and stagger home with enough clothes to open a market stall.

I wait. She smiles. 'I also need new jeans. And a pair of runners.' 
I sigh. 'Please make sure you need it and it can fit in your wardrobe.' 
She looks at me in amazement. 'Of course it'll all fit in my wardrobe.' 
She's probably right, I think. If only because the rest of her clothes live permanently on the floor. 

I don't 
get to see the whole haul when she arrives home later that day. But she assures me that that the therapy part of retail therapy has definitely happened. Encouraged, I head out myself the following week.

I'm not an enthusiastic shopper. I mean, we have to be down to our last can of sweetcorn before I'm even persuaded to do 'The Big Shop'. And I'm a bit old for Penneys. Or any fast fashion, to be honest. Instead, I invest in a decent pair of 'walking' runners and a new storm-proof summer coat, in preparation for an Irish summer. 

Right at the very end of May, just before it slips into the new month, we finally get a glimpse of the summer we need. The sun is shining and the breeze along the sea isn't a biting East wind. I'm going for a walk, I announce, lacing up my very clean, white runners. The Middle One isn't working that day and decides she'll come too. 

We're at the strand when I notice the very unusual tracksuit bottoms she's wearing. 
'Are they new?' I try to think what they remind me of.  
'Yep, bought them in Penneys that day. Seriously, they are the most comfortable tracksuit bottoms I've every worn. I mean, look at this.' She pulls out the huge, elasticated waistband that stretches right over her flat stomach.

I start to giggle. Now I know why they looked familiar. Although I haven't had to wear them in years. 
'They're not tracksuit bottoms,' I tell her, 'they're maternity trousers.' 


                                                                                *

Dear reader, thank you for visiting my blog today and I hope you enjoyed my June column. Please share This Funny Irish Life. (Sharing buttons are just below ;)  

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Sharon. xx

Monday, 3 May 2021

WHY I CAN'T GOOGLE A QUICK FIX FOR ME

 





DO YOU KNOW the most fun you can have with Google? Simply type in one of the five W words and see what comes up as a suggestion. 

When I say the five W words, I mean of course, What, Why, Who, Where, When. The suggestions that follow are random and weird and sometimes quite funny. 

What Hogwarts house am I in: Quiz? 
Why were cornflakes invented?
Who is the oldest person in the world? 
Where am I? No, really, that's an auto-suggestion. Clearly, enough people ask that question for it to be auto-generated on Google. 
When will hairdressers reopen? I think I might have auto-generated that one all by myself. But only because there are horses out there, with less hair than I currently have.  

So, everything you ever wanted to know, and loads of stuff you probably couldn't be bothered knowing, is all there, just a few clicks away. Every encyclopedia in the world to the power of infinity. 

And there you have it: my deep, philisophical thoughts about Google summed up in two lines. In fairness, they're only worth about two lines. 

The truth is, Google is my go-to. It's because I'm basically a quick-fix sort of person. Not that I can actually fix a lot of stuff myself. I mean, if the boiler breaks, I Google it. I know I can't actually do anything about it, and I will get an expert in, but I like to have an idea. 

But I like to feel I have some control, that there will always be something I can do right now, this minute. Health is an excellent example. But it carries a warning. For example, never, ever Google Why is there a big black mark on my leg?

Because Google is unlikely to know that you banged your shin on the way to the bathroom in the middle of the night, and have a stonking great bruise as a result. Instead, it'll try to convince you that you have contracted some awful disease and at the very least, you'll need your leg amputated. 

So, my Google searches reflect this. And they're full of things like, What are the best foods to eat to reduce inflamation? That covers a multitude, to be honest. Think up any inflamation you can and Google will spit out lists of foods to eat and ones to avoid. A lot of it is common sense, but if you tweak your search and add in herbs and spices, it sends you down lots of other fascinating rabbit holes. 

When I wake up one morning and realise my jaw is quite sore, I immediately Google: Why is my jaw sore? It throws up lots of possibilites but half of them scare the life out of me, so I give in and make an appointment with my doctor instead. 

My lovely doctor thinks it's TMJ, and tells me that's a dentist thing. I thank him, go home and Google TMJ. It stands for Temporomandibular Joint Disorder and it's basically arthritis in the jaw. Fantastic. I phone the dental practice. 

My lovely dentist, whom I attended for many years, has retired and a younger man has taken over his list. 
'I've seen him twice,' the Eldest tells me, in an effort to reassure me. 'He's lovely.' 

'So, how are you today?' he says, when he greets me at Reception. 
'Er, not good, that's why I'm here.' Always better to be honest when it comes to health, I find. And pain, obviously. Then, afraid I might have hurt his feelings, I tell him what The Eldest said. He gives a little chuckle. Not because he finds it funny, I imagine, but because he feels sorry for me. 

He diagnosis TMJ. There's no quick fix, he says. I wonder if this man has somehow found out that I am a huge fan of quick fixes, and is keen to forewarn me early. But before I have a chance to analyse it, he starts to ask a long list of questions. The usual sort to start: allergies, medications, does my jaw click when I eat?

I have to think about that. Sometimes, I concede.
Do I grind my teeth when I'm asleep?
Absolutely not, I tell him. I try not to sound defensive, but I'm not sure I succeed. And let's face it, how would I know? Wouldn't I be asleep? 

'Does your partner say that you grind your teeth at night?'
He's not letting this one go. I think about The Husband. I suspect his snoring might drown out my teeth grinding. If I were to grind my teeth. Which I don't. 
'That would be a no', I say cheerfully. 

'How did you feel about coming here today?' 
I actually turn to look at him, unsure I've heard correctly. I don't think I've ever been asked that question by a medical professional. I think about it. 
'Anxious, I suppose.' 
'Why?' 
Excellent question. 

'Were you nervous abut leaving the house? Because of Covid?' 
Ah, I see where he's going. 
'No, it's more of a dentist thing', I assure him. 'Low pain threshold.' I can't really read his expresson behind the mask. 

Finally, he has a look in my mouth and praises my dental hygiene, but diagnosis teeth grinding and jaw clenching at night. I'm amazed. Why now, after a lifetime of nocturnal slack-jaw have I become a teeth grinder? 

'Anxiety', he says. 'I've seen loads of patients during the last year who've developed the habit. You don't realise you're anxious but it comes out somewhere.' In my case, it seems, my jaw. 

The immediate solution is painkillers and jaw stretches. I prefer to think of it as facial yoga. Somehow, having a nice name for what is quite a painful thing to do, makes it less awful. 

The more long-term management - no quick fix, remember - is a night-time mouthguard. He makes the mould there and then, and I dutifully make the appointment to see him the following week. 

The effects of Covid can be longterm and sometimes quite unexpected. Whether or not you actually contract the illness. And like the illness itself, there's no quick fix. 

                                                      *

Dear reader, thank you for visiting my blog today and I hope you enjoyed my May column. Please share This Funny Irish Life. (Sharing buttons are just below ;)  

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Sharon. xx

Monday, 5 April 2021

POSING MY WAY BACK TO GOOD HEALTH: ONE DOWNWARD DOG AT A TIME





SOMEONE needs to take my phone and credit card from me and lock it up. At least for a while. Until boredom propels me towards great waves of creativity and I produce the next great Irish novel. Or if not creativity, at least activity, and I tidy the house. 

My house was clean last week - sorry you missed it. My fridge magnet has never been so apt. 

These days, bouts of boredom find me scrolling through Facebook and Instagram on my phone. I've already bought tonnes of books online (local bookstores who deliver). I've also bought some clothes, including a rather nice dress, that by some miracle, actually fits me. So far, so lovely. 

But then, in a move I can't really explain, I bought one of those power cleaning brushes. You know the type: cordless, motorised, removable heads for easy cleaning. Kill me now. Doesn't your home deserve the ultimate clean? the voiceover on the ad demanded.

And suddenly, my lockdown brain agreed. Of course it deserves it, I thought. I want a sparkling loo and mould-free tiles, I crave shining sinks and a gleaming oven (remember those removable, washable heads?). 

And in a few, dizzying clicks, I reached a lockdown low. I am looking forward to the DHL man's delivery of cleaning brushes. I am officially a Stepford Wife. 

There is a reason why boredom has driven me to, let's face it, the most boring website on the planet. About a month ago, an old foot injury flared up and overnight, I was hobbled with pain. It ages you about 100 years. I did what I figured was the best thing to do. I iced and rested my foot when I could, I learned to hobble around, favouring my good foot, and I became increasingly tired and bad-tempered. 

When I eventually realised it was not going to get better by itself (yes, it took me a month to figure that), I phoned a good friend, who's a highly qualified physiotherapist and acupuncturist, and begged for help. No problem, said she, leave it with me. 

God almighty, you're in bad shape, she said when she saw me. Briefly, I basked in her concern and also in her presence. The last time I saw her was a couple of months ago, when we had a remote coffee, video chat. It's not the same. 

Then, I realised that she wasn't just talking about my foot. She was talking about me in general. Because I haven't been able to walk in a month, I'd become quite unfit. Mentally, I was at the buying cleaning brushes stage. Physically, things were looking even worse. 

Do you do yoga? she said. I looked at her. We've known each other since we were four years old, and briefly I wondered how she didn't know this about me. I don't do yoga. Unless lying-on-your-back-with-your-legs-up-against-a-wall is an actual yoga pose. I mean, it should be. But it doesn't roll off the tongue the way, say, Glute Bridge or Child Pose does. 

Right, she said. Shoes, socks and jeans off. I need to see what's going on and we'll go through some strengthening exercises. It's a good thing I know her so well. But even still, I was quite glad I'd shaved my legs. 

Some time later, after said exercises were demonstrated by her, and she'd completely ignored the bit of swearing by me, I got to lie up on the treatment bed, while she inserted some needles. The two that went into some tendon behind my hip (this is acupuncture and everything is bloody connected), hurt like hell. Which was entirely expected, and apparently not such a bad thing. For her, maybe. 

I want to see you again in three weeks, she said, as I was leaving. In pre-Covid days, we'd have hugged each other. I'm sorely sick of waving at my close friends. 

The upside, apart from the fact that my foot is feeling a bit better already, is that I have yoga exercises to do every day. Which I'm supposed to do until I can go for walks again. Actually, I'm supposed to do them all the time. For ever and ever. 

Which means technically, that if I'm bored, I won't be tempted to go online and start buying, say, super-strength wall strips that can hold bricks (because who wants a sticking-out brick in the middle of their wall anyway?) or double-sided mop buckets, that stop you slopping dirty water back onto your floor, or those long-handled weed pluckers.  

From now on, if I'm bored, I'll be doing Downward Dog. 

                                                            *

Dear reader, thank you for visiting my blog today and I hope you enjoyed my April column. Please share This Funny Irish Life. (Sharing buttons are just below ;)  

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Sharon. xx


Monday, 1 March 2021

THE BITTERSWEET DAYS OF A 2.0 LOCKDOWN LIFE.




                            Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash


LAST night I dreamt I was home alone. 
Like all my lockdown dreams, it was vivid and realistic. There I was, at the far end of the kitchen, where my desk is, the only sound the tip-tap of the keyboard under my fingers and the tick-tock of the clock on the wall. 

In my dream, everyone else was out: at school or college or work. I wouldn't see them until later in the day. My dreams, I think, are a way for my mind to briefly escape from the madness of my lockdown life. 

It's a different kind of madness, of course. Before Covid19, I lived my life with the help of lists. Scribbles in multiple handwriting, on a page-per-day diary, always open on the centre work unit in our kitchen. In recent times, it would fill with reminders, appointments, driving practice with adult children, shopping, lifts to GAA practice and matches in far-flung clubs, the roster for my part-time job.  

But now the business is inside and closer to home. We treat our rooms as offices and self-contained flats, except that here, five people juggle for access to the internet. I pass the living room on my way out for a walk within my 5km, and smile as I hear The Boy's deep voice in class. Today, he and 60,000 other Leaving Cert students have returned to their schools, after nearly two months of online lectures.  

Upstairs, The Eldest has been teaching her primary school students online. Briefly, from outside the closed door, I overhear her voice, bright and encouraging and enthusiastic, and I feel a rush of pride. 

Because my desk is in the kitchen, I imagine I'm working in an office, where there's no space, so I've set up in the corner of the canteen. People drift in and out for their tea and toast, bowls of soup or mugs of coffee. Quite often, they wonder if I'm bored and want somebody to chat to. Sometimes, I am and I do. At other times, I wish to hell that they could all stop eating and drinking quite as much. 

I feel an almost anxious urge to stay in touch with family and friends, as I worry that if I don't, they'll forget about me, or our friendships will drift and be irrevocably damaged. I don't mind video calls, but to my surprise, some people hate them. 'It's like the digital version of turning up unannounced to somebody's door,' a friend tells me patiently. Even with warning? Even then. What are the pyjama sales like, I wonder? 

I read online that lots of people working from home spend the day in their pyjamas. I'll come straight out and say that will never be me: it would make me depressed. And even though I've been living in the same two pairs of jeans, selection of long-sleeve tops and about three wool jumpers, it helps me, to be dressed. But because I technically have less to do, and more time to do it, I worry that I'll never return to pre-Covid me. And I wonder if I want to. 

But, I've got better at ordering stuff online. For me, and for other people. Books are my go-to, but the other day, I ordered a dress. The Eldest and The Middle One were astonished when it arrived. I want to believe that it was because I bothered to order myself clothes, and not that it actually fit. 

And since the new year, I've got properly back to reading, and I love it. I restrict my Netflix to the odd weekend night in front of the telly, or mad binge-watching on my phone (yes, I have it on my phone, I'm not perfect) as I prepare the evening dinner. Lookit, chopping vegetables or peeling potatoes is the most boring bloody job: don't judge. 

Now that the weather is getting better, I'm trying to see the garden work I put in during the Spring and Summer of last year, and I genuinely can't. The place is over-run with weeds and the grass is waving at us. None of us will ever get our old push-mower through it.  

I feel like the garden is a sort of metaphor for my life right now. In fact, it might be a metaphor for a lot of our lives. At the start of this year, I wrote a very confident, up-beat column titled, In With The New. 

Now, at the start of March, I'm wondering what's really new. Just over a week ago, we all woke to the news that this Level 5 lockdown (the highest level we have here in Ireland) would be extended until at least the middle of April. It was difficult to get out of bed that morning. 

But a lovely woman I once knew, would, if she were here, simply reassure me that 'this too shall pass'. 
And I still choose to believe that. 

                                                                      *

Dear reader, thank you for visiting my blog today and for reading my March column. Please share This Funny Irish Life. (Sharing buttons are just below ;)  

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Sharon. xx


Monday, 1 February 2021

THE EYES HAVE IT: WAIT FOR THE REVEAL.

 





I AM shopping in my local village when I first notice it. It's subtle at first. So subtle, that I hardly pay any attention. I dismiss it as a figment of my imagination, born out of boredom, the tedious monotomy of every day during my lockdown life. Then it happens again and I can no longer ignore it.

It's the attention given to The Reveal. Passers-by have started to take notice of other people as they take off their mask in the street, to reveal their full face. Really, it's a thing. The first time I realise it's happening, I am coming out of Tesco. I'm carrying two bags, and I transfer both to the one hand to remove my mask. At first, I think, maybe that man (it happens to be a man) is marvelling at my strength as I support two very heavy bags in the one hand. 

And lookit, they are heavy. I always go in to Tesco to buy one carton of milk and a soda bread, and maybe some fish for dinner. Obviously, this isn't literally what I buy every time, but you get the gist. But I always end up buying five litres of milk, and a dozen eggs (we should actually keep chickens), and bread and tea and coffee beans and some mince so I can make a nice bolognaise sauce, and omigod, they have creme eggs. Already? Creme eggs? We're barely out of January. But they're really bad for me, so I settle on some dark chocolate and try to feel smug, instead of just a bit disappointed for not giving into temptation. 

But where was I? Yes, the man. Who gives me a very definite look as I remove my mask. In fairness, I should add that he's a very nice, harmless old man, whom I sort of recognise. And I think I know his wife. Anyway. That is the first time. 

But then the idea lodges in my mind. And because I'm a bit bored, I decide to test the theory. So in I go to our local health food shop to buy some hair colour for my roots. What can I say? Lockdown hair. And just before I go in, I put on the mask. Obviously. I smile at the two young women in the shop, whom I'll have a very difficult time actually recognising when all this is over and we don't have to wear masks anymore. I buy the hair colour and as an afterthought, some fish oils. We exchange small talk. And I leave the shop. 

As I step back on the pavement, my hand goes to the loop around my left ear and I tug my mask away. This time, at least three people look. I resist the urge to giggle. This must be how women felt back at the turn of the 20th century, when they flashed an ankle. But this time, it's not just women. It's men, too. I'm sure of it. But the reason now, is a bit different. It's nothing to do with ankles or the reasons why men (or women) looked at ankles. Ahem. 

No, it's much more simple than that: old-fashioned curiousity. Hide something from someone, and they crave a glimpse. They demand to see it. Pre-Covid, our faces were uncovered. Outside shops, in queues for our morning coffees, inside shops, restaurants, hair salons, cinemas and theatres, schools and colleges. We saw each other's full faces: our big noses and cute chins, our carefully applied makeup, our proud beards. 

But Covid and coverings have caused a cultural shift. Now, we only see each other's eyes. I find myself trying to read people's eyes. Are they twinkly? Flat? Bored? Angry? Just plain sad? And then....and then....I realise what is happening. Why people are watching and waiting and looking as I remove my mask. They are doing the same thing I am. They want to see if the rest of the face fits the eyes. It has become a game and we are all playing it.  

And with this realisation comes an idea: we need to make our masks an awful lot more interesting. Far more dramatic. I'm not talking about floral designs or clever slogans, or cotton masks that look like screams. Amateur stuff, all of it. 

No. If we have to continue to wear masks for the forseeable future, we need to make them fabulous. Like carnival masks (see above), but with soft coverings for the mouth part. Imagine wearing one of those Venetian ones with feathers and sequins, as you dash in to buy your cornflakes? Or wondering what that person in front of you looks like, behind their gilded creation, as they delve into the freezer for their frozen peas? 

Not only that, but imagine how beautiful our eyes would be, framed by a mask worthy of wearing to a ball? Given that I haven't worn makeup since I had to start wearing face masks (because you know, what's the point?), I might be sorely tempted not to remove the mask at all when I'm outdoors. That way I could look infinitely mysterious. 

Which, right now, would be something. 

                                                                           *




Dear reader, thank you for visiting my blog today and for reading my February column. I'd love if you shared This Funny Irish Life. (Sharing buttons are just below ;)  

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To find out more about me, click on the links/information at the sidebar on the right. Have a lovely month, and I'll be back with a new column on Monday, March 1st. Take care, 
Sharon. xx

Monday, 4 January 2021

IN WITH THE NEW



WELCOME to the world, 2021. You've been a long time coming and I've great plans for you. But first, I'll briefly mark the passing of the old.  

On new year's eve of 2020, I watch a silly, laugh-out-loud movie on TV with The Boy, then I read three chapters of a new book I've bought and I get to bed at 11.30. 

For the first time in forever, we are all in bed early that night. There is nowhere to go, no way to meet up with friends. Our country is back in lockdown. I lie there, listening to the fireworks that start at ten minutes to midnight, marvelling quietly as they reach a crescendo, as one year tips into the next. Goodbye, 2020. I will try to forget you. 

Enough said. But if 2020 has taught me anything, it's that best laid plans can fall apart, leaving a person in danger of becoming a Netflix addict while they eat their own weight in chocolate. Or so I've heard. 

So, in case this year becomes a bit pear-shaped also, a few resolutions are needed. And if 2020 taught me anything else, it was how bad I am at sticking to resolutions. Let's call them practices instead. I have a list (don't we all?) as well as a few tricks to help in my quest to be a better person.  

1. Read more books. 
Given how few books I got through during our first lockdown, which began back in March, it's astonishing I didn't forget how to read. So for the new year, I've employed some science to help me. Apparently, there is a scientific explanation for forgetting something when you leave a room. Like when you go upstairs to get something, only to forget what it is, by the time you get there. And you have to go back to where you first thought of it, to actually remember it. I read that it's  the brain's way of freeing up space, for the new memories we need to make in our new environment. Even if this new environment is just another room! 

In light of this fantastic news, I will now read at least two books at the same time. One will be upstairs and the other downstairs. I just have to remember not to have them in the same place. Otherwise, I might cause untold problems. Like in time travel movies, when the hero goes back and accidentally bumps into their younger self, and causes a time paradox. 

2. Walk more. 
I think that's entirely possible, because with all the cafes closed for everything except takeouts, it's the only way I currently get to see friends. If walking is the price I have to pay for a good gossip, show me the door. 

3. Drink less coffee. 
Conversely, this wasn't as much of a problem before The Great Lockdown of 2020. Until then, my morning routine was to toddle off to my nearest favourite coffee shop, buy my takeout and come back to my desk. Which meant I was a one coffee a day person. 

However, last March, The Husband treated me to my own rather snazzy espresso machine. Which also heats and froths the milk for cappucinos. Never one to do things half-heartedly, I've been grinding my own beans, making my own blends (no, really) and perfecting the art of coffee.

This new found love of DIY caffeine creations, reached peak silliness this Christmas, when The Eldest gave me a chocolate powder shaker and stencils. I've spent a ridiculous amount of time drenching stencils in Cadburys drinking chocolate, to produce coffees adorned with Christmas trees, flowers, coffee cups (!) and soppy love messages. The reason I need to cut down on my coffee, is because I'm spending too much time on my barista skills. 

4. Eat less chocolate. 
Like the Read More Books decision, I'm employing science again. I read somewhere (probably online, to be honest) that women crave chocolate when they're low in magnesium. Given that I have practically no will power, I've decided to find out how much magnesium I'm supposed to get, and the easiest, most painless way to get it. Other than chocolate. 

5. Have more fun.
This is probably the most important decision I'll make, especially as it comes after a year of stress and anxiety and general disappointment. Over Christmas, I played charades with my gang. It's a Christmas tradition, carried over from my own childhood, when I played the game with my own parents, siblings and often some extended family.

For a single hour, we acted out the silliest book, movie and song titles we could think of. We laughed until we could barely act out the mimes or guess at the titles: a shot of pure happiness. We need more of it in our lives. Happy new year. 

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Welcome to my first column of 2021 and thank you for reading. If this is your first visit to This Funny Irish Life, I'd love if you shared it. (Sharing buttons are just below!!) If you're a regular visitor, welcome back and I'd love if you shared it too. ;) 

If you'd like to comment on anything, drop your comments in the box provided. (Comments are moderated, so they won't appear immediately! Your email address won't appear at all. ðŸ’š)

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THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, go to the Follow by Email
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To find out more about me, click on the links/information at the sidebar on the right. Have a safe, peaceful and prosperous new year and I'll be back next month.
Sharon. xx


Monday, 7 December 2020

CHRISTMAS TREE, UH OH, CHRISTMAS TREE






THE CHRISTMAS TREES around here all went up early this year. When I say early, I was starting to see trees in people's windows - as well as on their social media - from the first day of November.

I'm assuming they're stylish fakes, because I can't imagine a real tree lasting all the way through to the big day. But after a year that most of us would rather forget, I understand why the prospect of mince pies, egg nog and fairy lights is even more tempting than usual. 

But for the first time ever, we're not putting up a big tree. This has nothing to do with the environment (our tree lives in the attic from one end of the year to the next), or the fact that mentally, I'm probably stuck back in March, when the world as we know it, screeched to a halt. 

The reason is entirely practical. The Boy is in his final year in school and his study area is in the bay window where our Christmas tree goes. I wonder about having the tree elsewhere. There isn't room in the kitchen, and nobody would see it in what we still refer to as the playroom, all these years later. My suggestion to put it up in the hall is met with a luke-warm reaction. Leave it with me, I say. I'll be creative. 

Being creative about Christmas, I soon discover, implies you know what you're doing. That you have some sort of grand plan in mind. I had no plan at all. I rarely do. I just sort of make it up as I go along and hope for the best. 

I do an internet search for alternative Christmas trees, but a lot of them are actual Christmas trees that are just decorated strangely. Or in some cases, beautifully. Just not how we decorate ours: with mis-matching sentimentalism. I look at tree-like creations with branches made entirely from LED lights, giant lego trees, and trees that have been completely knitted. It's an internet rabbit hole.  

Then I remember how one of my friends from my book club fills a huge vase with long, elegantly-twisting branches every Christmas. It stands on the floor in a corner of her dining room, the branches strung with tiny white lights and dainty baubles. She's the kind of person who also has chunky white candles arranged in threes along a vast marble mantlepiece, and storm lanterns on her doorstep. 

Right, I think: branches in a vase. Lights, baubles. How hard can that be? I take myself off to the shed. There's a pile of seasoned wood in the corner, which we'll burn during the winter. I find a few slimmer, longer pieces and hold them up. They're far too short. I throw them back and dig a bit deeper, jumping when I disturb a few MASSIVE garden spiders.  

A few minutes later, heart still thumping from my encounter with the spiders, I have a decent armful of branches. Feeling smug beyond belief, I bring them into the house and examine them. Close up, in the light, they don't look remotely like the branches in my elegant friend's house. For a start, they're pretty dirty. I find some rubber gloves and start to wash them. 

An hour later, I come back to where I've laid them out to dry. They're still damp: in fact, they haven't improved at all. I find the biggest vase we own and arrange them in it. Pushing the vase into a corner, I stand back and try to imagine the finished creation. It's no good. No amount of twinkling lights will transform these into a thing of Christmassy beauty. I take them all out of the vase and throw them in the fire basket, only to discover I have a splinter. 

This will not get the better of me, I think, as I go shopping the following day. I will come up with something wonderful and arty. I will be so creative, that my family will never want to return to having a traditional tree in the corner of our living room. I worry briefly about the pressure of having to be ever more creative, year after year, but push it out of my mind. Right now, I only have to think about this Christmas. 

I spot it while I'm waiting in the queue to pay for my groceries: the answer to my problems. It's a miniature tree in a pot. A real fir, complete with a tiny string of fairy lights, attached to a battery pack. With our own lights and a few favourite decorations, it will be perfect. I carry it home and put it sitting on a small, occasional table in our kitchen. I will decorate the pot and the table too, and on Christmas eve, Santa Claus can leave our gifts on the floor underneath. 

The Middle One comes into the kitchen and starts to sneeze. A moment later, her eyes are red and watering. "Oh my God, is that a real tree?" She stares at me as if I've deliberately dropped her phone in the loo, or something. "You know I'm allergic to pollen and pine trees?"

Of course I know. It's the reason we have never bought a real tree at Christmas. But in my efforts to be creative, I have completely forgotten. When I bought the wonderful tiny tree that now sits on an equally tiny table, I simply forgot that it is still a tree.

She looks at it again. "How long has it been away from its mother?" she quips. I grin. "Does this mean you could get used to it in the house?" 
"It's only for Christmas, right? We're not keeping it afterwards?"
I promise to have it outside, once Christmas is over. 

And just like that, our tree is sorted. In the new year, I'll plant it out. And when I grow up, I'll be like my book club friend: effortlessly elegant. One of these Christmasses.  

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Thank you for reading my column all year, I appreciate it MASSIVELY. Please share it (the sharing buttons are just below!!)  

If you'd like to comment on anything, just use the comments box below. (Comments are moderated, so they won't appear immediately! Your email address won't appear at all. ðŸ’š)

To get 
THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, go to the Follow by Email
 box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. 


To find out more about me, click on the links/information at the sidebar on the right.

Have a very happy, peaceful Christmas, and I'll be back here in 2021. Take care, 
Sharon. xx
 

Monday, 9 November 2020

WHY REALITY TV IS THE PERFECT ESCAPE FROM REALITY

 



FOR the first time in my life, I am in love with reality TV. It's been a long time coming, as the idea of watching real people basically being themselves on the small screen, has been around a while.

I clearly remember the first time Big Brother aired (a group of random, publicity-seeking strangers thrown into a house together, encouraged to bitch about each other and be as obnoxous as they liked, before voting out the least popular person every week, until Last Person Standing.)

All this, while sleeping in communal bedrooms and being constantly watched in real time, by millions of viewers. I knew people who would watch for hours as the contestants ate, slept, watched TV (in the Big Brother House), painted their toenails or picked their noses. I thought it was the laziest TV EVER.  

But I am a convert to certain reality TV shows for one simple reason. Almost all reality TV being aired right now, was actually made pre-Covid. Remember that world? The world of meeting people in pubs and restaurants, cinema on a Friday night, theatre and music festivals, busy shops where you didn't have to wear a mask, crowds gathered around buskers on the street. The ordinary stuff we took for granted, but now seems like another lifetime, can be enjoyed in some small way on the small screen, where for an hour at a time, I can pretend that the world is still like that. 

These days, I can't get enough of shows like First Dates Ireland, Strictly Come Dancing and The Great British Bake-Off. I know people have been watching all this for years - I regularly see Strictly trending on Twitter when it's on - but in my pre-Covid life, I'd trawl the channels for a good movie. The last thing I wanted was a reality show, I reckoned I had enough of my own reality. What I wanted was escapism. 

Now, when I'm watching a couple of strangers meet for their blind date meal, I feel like Will Smith in I Am Legend, where every evening he watches recorded news shows, from before the rest of the world was wiped out by a virus, leaving him all alone. It sounds a tad melodramatic, but you get the idea.   

At a time when our country is in Lockdown, I watch in envy as couples - dressed up for an evening out - meet at the bar for their pre-dinner drink and actually kiss or hug in greeting. I hang on their every word as they're served beautiful plates of sculpted food: little heart-shaped molds of potato, morsels of meat and wonderful vignettes of vegetables, all decorated with drizzles of sauces. Yes, I know, the food looks AMAZING. Why the hell wouldn't it look amazing, when I haven't been to a restaurant since I-can't-rmember-when? 

But what's even more amazing is that they're doing stuff we long took for granted. These complete strangers don't just share face to face conversation in beautiful surroundings, they share food! From one plate to another! I am green with jealousy, and at the same time I'm DELIGHTED for them. I laugh at their jokes, I silently will them to like each other, so that there'll be a second date. By the end of the meal, I am so invested in these lovely people, that when they speak to the interviewer, I am DEVESTATED if they confess there was no spark. 

Strictly Come Dancing is a whole other delight. I get why it's so popular. Viewers love the dancing and the music, the fabulous costumes and the chance to vote for their favourite couple. It's fun and vibrant and bursting with energy. Mainly, it's the complete opposite to most people's lives right now. 

During the week I found myself watching The Great British Bake-Off. I don't know what year it was made, but it was in the middle of a heatwave and in the Bake-Off tent, they were having a back-to-the-80s theme. I watched in awe as six talented amateur bakers, made 80s-themed icecream cakes - from scratch - while wearing cold-water-soaked cloths around their necks in a bid to stay cool. 

The crazy thing is, I don't particularly like baking. I tend to leave it to my very capable kids. If - again, pre-Covid, pre-Lockdown days - we were having a dinner party, friends knew I'd far rather an offer of dessert, than flowers or wine.

But I find I can't tear myself away from programmes where people come together, in a big white tent during the Summer, to do something as uplifitng as making a gorgeous cake. That's why I'm so drawn to it. During these awful, weird, worrying times, it's uplifting. It's hopeful. It's a promise that one day, soonish, things will be normal again. 


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Hello there. I hope you're keeping well and managing to stay relatively sane at this time. Thanks so much for reading today's column, I appreciate it MASSIVELY. I'd love if you shared it (the sharing buttons are just below!!)  

If you'd like to comment on anything, just use the comments box below. (Comments are moderated, so they won't appear immediately! Your email address won't appear at all. ðŸ’š)

To get 
THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, go to the Follow by Email
 box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. 


To find out more about me, click on the links/information at the sidebar on the right.

Sharon. xx
 

Monday, 12 October 2020

LIVING OUR LIVES INSIDE OUT





A COUPLE of weeks back I made the bold prediction that this Winter in Ireland, fashion would be all about the coat. 

Obviously, I know that every Winter is about the coat. Most of us have cold Winters. Here in Ireland, our Winter months also tend to be quite wet. Which makes a decent coat or jacket less of a fashion statement, and more of a necessity. 

But for those not familiar with how we're dealing with Covid in Ireland, I'll breifly fill you in. Right now, we're in what the government calls Level 3. I won't bore anyone with the exact details (in fact, I'd probably have to go and look them up) but it's basically life half way between Level 1, where things are so close to normal, you'd hardly know there was anything strange happening, and Level 5 which means the whole country is in lockdown. 

So, schools remain open, most college students are studying online from home (except for practical work), shops are doing a bit of careful business and restaurants and cafes are allowed to do takeaways and outdoor coffees and dining. 

Have you ever seen outdoor dining in Ireland? It's a bit like year round swimming in the Irish sea or the Atlantic ocean, depending on which side of the country you live. Grand in the Summer - I'd stretch to lovely if we get a heatwave - but a test of everything that makes you Irish when the weather turns against you.  

Hollywood star Matt Damon was a regular swimmer in Dalkey on the east coast of Dublin while he found himself stuck here during lockdown earlier this year (and speaking as a Dubliner, there are far worse places to be locked-down) but he'd have to dig deep down to plunge into the Irish sea in the middle of December. Then again, the guy single-handedly made it back from Mars, so maybe it wouldn't pose a problem. 

During the day, temperatures at this time of the year float anywhere between 9 and 15 degrees celcius so a few rays of Autumn sun is enough to send us all out to pavement cafes. But on two days last week, while the tail end of a storm threatened to overturn the patio furniture, I passed a couple of places where those far hardier than me, hunched under battered umbrellas and chatted over  rain-soaked coffee cups.  

Which brings me back to outdoor dining. The real thing: at night.The kind of thing you see all the time in the Summer all around Europe, in countries that boast Mediteranean Lifestyles. And while we're both proudly Irish and proudly European on our little island, it's important to rememember that we are in fact a rather attractive rock in the Atlantic ocean, and we've never really done the outdoor dining thing. So it's fascinating to see it suddenly become a thing. And to see how we embrace it.  

As Autumn turns to Winter, I reckon year round sea swimmers might have a bit of an advantage, because they're hardier than the rest of us, who genuinely think that submerging yourself in water during the freezing winter months should involve a hot bath, low lights and a glass of wine.  

For the hot bath and glass of wine types amongst us, the more innovative cafes and restaurants aren't simply arranging tables on the pavements or setting out picnic benches in the carparks. They're investing in awnings and patio heaters, and as the colder nights close in, we'll brave outdoor versions of our favourite eateries, where waiters serve blankets and hot water bottles along with food and drink.  

The upside of all this, will be that choosing what to wear, will be all about deciding how to be warm, as opposed to trying to figure out niceties like casual, smart-casual and dammit-I've-put-on-weight-since-I-last-wore-this-fecken-dress. 

In fact, I'd go as far as to say that you could probably meet a friend for coffee or a couple of mates for dinner, wearing your pyjama top and nobody would ever know. All people will see this Winter is the long, warm coat or cool puffa jacket, the snug boots, the hat and scarf and stylish gloves.

And I will make one more prediction for the coming months. Whisper it (or shout it from those picnic benches): thermal underwear will be a thing. The Canadians and Scandinavians made it cool years ago. Go on, embrace it. Mine's on order. ;) 


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Please drop your comments you in the box below on this week's blog. (Comments are moderated, so they won't appear immediately! Your email address won't appear at all. ðŸ’š)

Please share today's column and thank you so much for reading, I appreciate it MASSIVELY. 

To get 
THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, go to the Follow by Email
 box at the top right of the page. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused. 


To find out more about me, click on the links/information at the sidebar on the right.

Sharon. xx