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 ;)  

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)

To get 
THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, pop it into 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. Stay safe, and keep mentally and physically well, and I'll be back with a new column next month.  
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 ;)  

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)

To get 
THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, pop it into 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. Stay safe, and keep mentally and physically well, and I'll be back with a new column next month.  
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 ;)  

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)

To get 
THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, pop it into 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 lovely month, and I'll be back with a new column in four weeks' time. Take care, 
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 ;)  

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)

To get 
THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via email every month, pop it into 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 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. 

                                                                                  *


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)

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 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.  

                                                                              *


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. 


                                                     *



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. ;) 


                                                        *


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
 


Monday, 14 September 2020

SEASONS OF MISTS AND DREADED FRUITFULNESS




THE OLD APPLE TREE in our little garden fruited early this year. Early and generously. The boughs are literally dropping to the ground with the weight of the apples. And also because the tree hasn't been pruned in 10 years. In fact, the branches are so low, I have to remember to duck when I'm cutting the grass. But I digress. 

Where was I? The apples: slightly sharp, green and blush in colour. They started appearing sometime during the late Summer although I can't remember precisely when. But we started picking them in early August. Each day since, the apples have grown and ripened. As I write, we have three massive bowlfuls on the kitchen counter. 

The only reason I dutifully fill these bowls with as many apples as I can reach, and even check the grass daily for perfect (non-wormy, non-bird-eaten) windfall, is because of a deep-rooted guilt. Imagine the absolute WASTE if I left them to fall and rot, or stay on the tree and rot, or whatever they'd do if we didn't collect them. 

A part of me - and I HATE myself for having to admit this - absolutely wishes our apple tree wasn't quite so bountiful. I know that's probably a sin or something. At the very least, a crime against nature. Even if it's all in my mind. 

But every time I haul out the ladder to unburden the branches, I wonder what on earth I'm going to do with all this fruit. I've offered it to a few family members, of course. They've turned me down. There's various reasons for that, and I won't take it personally. One person likes a certain type of apple, and sources it from a particular shop. Another doesn't eat apples. 

I had considered offering the apples to some of the neighbours, but because our houses were all built in the early 1930s, on land formerly owned by a large estate, lots of people have similar trees in their gardens, which were once all part of the same orchard. 

'Make compot', one of my brothers suggested. Excellent idea, I thought, as I wondered which of my offspring I could persuade to peel and slice all those apples into a pot. Then I wondered how much room I'd have in my freezer for it. 

And I wondered too if I'd use it. Or if, in six months' time when I suddenly needed the room in my freezer for another packet of frozen peas (which I actually use), would I be tempted to throw it out?

I just said tempted, OK? I'm not saying for one minute that it's a certainty. Just, I need to figure out if it's worth all the fuss. Because the thing is, I'm not terribly interested in baking. Unlike loads of people I know, it doesn't relax me. In fact, it tends to make me quite stressed. All that weighing and rolling and folding. It's like pilates, only with weight gain rather than weight loss at the end. 

Also, and this is an important factor, with the exception of the men in our family (all two of them), nobody eats crumbles or tarts. And the only time I eat stewed apple, is if I make a small amount of compot to accompany pork. None of the rest of my family is interested in baking with apples, either. If, on the other hand, we had a tree that produced chocolate chips, it would spark a small land war.   

Meanwhile, the four tomato plants that we threw down in hastily assembled compost trays on the patio, are ripening at a pace I can manage. Tomatoes don't trigger the same love/hate feelings in our kitchen. They're a lot more versatile. And when we have a glut (which has happened), there's always lasagne.

Nor does it matter that we don't grow them from seed. When I pluck those tomatos off the vine and throw them into a salad, I am, in my own head SINGLE-HANDEDLY SAVING THE PLANET.  

Which isn't an admission of smugness. Because obviously, I understand that I am completely deluded. That said, if I ever manage to grow a full, fruiting tomato plant FROM SEED, I will be unbearably smug. You have been warned. 

Which brings me back to my feelings of guilt about the apple tree. It has stood in our garden for who knows how long? It is older than our house. I imagine the people who lived here decades ago, and their delight every Autumn when the apple tree fruited. They'd probably prepare to store some of the apples for the winter, and turn the rest into tarts and crumbles and apple jam. No doubt there'd be whole days set aside for jam making. 

When we first moved to our home over 25 years ago, I loved that we had an apple tree in the garden. In my mind, our children and I would count down the days until we could pick the apples. Together, we would make our crumbles and our own secret-recipe jam. It was probably in the same fantasy as planting our whole front lawn as a wildflower garden and growing so many vegetables in the back, that I'd never have to buy any. 

In the end, reader, I managed the wildflower garden. I'll have to be content with one out of three. If anyone who knows me personally, happens to be reading this and fancies some organic apples, let me know.  


                                                                                 *

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

Monday, 17 August 2020

HOME-MOVIE MEMORIES



WE DIDN'T get a holiday this Summer. It's not a big deal, as we've been lucky enough to get a family holiday every year since The Eldest was just a baby. As going abroad wasn't on the cards during a pandemic, we did briefly toy with the idea of holidaying in Ireland - and it got me thinking of my own Irish holidays when I was a child. 

There's one aspect of those holidays that live on in the shape of old home-movie footage: my dad’s beautifully shot 16 millimetre films. In particular, one from a very early childhood holiday.  

Because long before anyone could make instant videos on YouTube or Tic Toc, a small amount of amateur film makers, documented an Ireland my own children can hardly imagine. And it was in the Summer of 1974 that Paul Black made a name for himself in a small corner of West Cork.   


That was the second Summer my parents and my uncle and aunt, rented one half of a farmhouse in the picture-perfect village of Rosscarbery, for a fortnight’s holiday. The big Georgian house was home to a farming couple and their five children, who were relaxed and welcoming. Our holiday was simple: we were either at the beach or on the farm. The days were endless, our freedom unchecked.

We didn’t care that for the second year running, my dad carted around a tripod and heavy recording equipment, checking the light or reminding us not to wave at the camera. We had no interest in it. We had sandcastles to build, new born chicks to discover, fields to run through.

I can honestly say that none of us gave it a second thought until the evening my dad invited everyone, including our hosts, to view a film he had shot and edited the previous year, on our first family holiday in the small town by the shallow estuary. In the grand old living room, with its high ceiling and wooden sash windows, he and my uncle Ken erected a makeshift screen from a white bed sheet.

We assembled after dinner, the adults settling into the sofas and armchairs, the farm children and we Dublin kids sprawling on the rugs in front. All of us unsure what to expect. As the curtains were pulled tightly across the windows and the lights turned out, an excited hush fell. And then the first image flickered onto the makeshift screen: an opening shot of Rosscarbery bay, the camera pulling back to reveal a panoramic view.

It quickly became clear that this was far more than a simple home movie. In fact, it wasn’t a home movie in the traditional sense, as the film-maker's own family hardly featured in it. The 20 minute film, which was carefully shot and edited, set to music and narrated by its producer, was an homage to the West Cork town, its people and their way of life.  

My dad had captured footage of our hosts’ old fashioned mixed farm. He had also filmed farmers from miles around, bringing their milk in urns on tractors to the local creamery. All of it was interspersed with the scenery of the surrounding bay and countryside and a narrated history of the area.

As familiar faces from all over the town and surrounding county appeared on screen, our host family sent up a cheer of recognition and another warm round of applause. Afterwards, the farmer came over to my dad and shook his hand.
      “There’s just one thing now I’d like you to do,” said he. “Show it again tomorrow night. I want to invite one or two relatives to come see it.”
My proud Dublin dad readily agreed.

The following evening, he and my uncle made their usual visit to the local hotel for a couple of pints before returning to the house for tea. By that stage, the word was out. As they left, most of the farmers drinking in the hotel bar left with them.

By the time they reached the house, the long driveway was filled with people arriving for the show. Inside it was standing room only. As a very young child, my only memories of that warm Summer night were the good-natured shouts as people saw themselves, perhaps for the first time on a big screen, cheers and thunderous applause when the film ended.

My dad was asked to show his film twice more on our holiday that year. Once was in the local hotel, where the owner poured free drinks for him and uncle Ken all night. The other time was at the local convent. The Sisters had caught wind of it, and my dad was summoned to let them see it too.  

We holidayed in Rosscarbery for four more years, and each year my dad recorded more, weaving the new footage into the original film. Despite being very young, it was that second year I remember best.

Two years ago, my dad suffered the first of two devastating strokes, which have left him unable to speak, read or write, paint or play piano. Those lovingly-made amateur films are something we will always treasure. They were his moments of movie-maker fame.  

                                                          *


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