Monday, 31 October 2016

Halloween Terror: One Scary Night.


                    Halloween: Welcome to The Adams Family neighbourhood!


HALLOWEEN terrifies me.

A huge admission, I know, but before anyone chokes in disbelief on their breakfast cereal, let me add that miniature monsters and giggling ghouls don't actually frighten me.

Bring on the cackling, battery operated witches, the huge hairy spiders stuck to the ivy, and all those scooped out pumpkins, their cleverly carved faces illuminated in the dark night. No worries there.

What puts the spooks on me, so to speak, is the effort it takes to keep up with the neighbours.

For weeks now, houses on our road have decorated their windows with dozens of tiny paper pumpkins, black spiders hanging artfully on delicate threads, wisps of white web strewn across hedges and along garden walls.

Other people get the whole October theme so right.

Another artistic neighbour organises a pathway of storm lanterns up to her door, and winds Halloween-themed paper lanterns around trees and shrubs.

That other people get the whole end-of-October look so right, never fails to make me wonder - and fills me with self-doubt.

Not for them the ugly mishmash of paper skeletons, arms and legs re-taped year to year, the plastic pumpkins and cauldrons, broomsticks and tatty witches' cloaks and glow-in-the-dark candles with silly faces.

Which has to mean,
     1. They all have far better taste than me: a distinct possibility. Or,
     2. At some point, they threw away all the tat and upgraded their decorations.
Also highly plausible.

I blame the retailers. The kids are barely back to school at the end of August, when they go into Halloween overdrive, flogging everything from talking skeletons to Halloween wreaths, to cute costumes for babies.

In the US...every single person seems to dress up on October 31st

There are probably cute pet costumes too, but given that most four-legged family members have to be kept indoors, and often sedated during the fireworks season, I can't really see that idea catching on.

Anyone reading this column in the US, might be shaking their head in wonder. Although I've never been state-side during Halloween, I've seen enough TV. It delights and amazes me, that every single person seems to dress up on October 31st. And that there are so many parties!

When our kids were little, we caved one year and threw a Halloween party for friends and neighbours. All the children dressed up, and so did some of their parents, until they realised that they were making the toddlers hysterical.

The grownups behaved like people who couldn't believe they were enjoying adult company at 6.30 in the evening with their kids in tow! The kids ate more sugar in a few short hours than they'd probably eaten in a month. And the smallest ones quickly used up all their energy, then fell asleep. 

A success, by most people's standards.

Former weeny witches heading out as s**y witches.

And vastly removed from the parties our children attend, once they hit their late teens. The costumes for this age group, particularly the girls, are eye-opening.

You haven't been terrified on October 31st until you've seen former weeny witches heading out for the night dressed as 's**y witch', or 's**y ghost girl' or 's**y devil' or...well, you get the idea.

Meanwhile, it might be time to update my rather sad Halloween decorations. I could try tasteful, low-key stuff. Artfully arranged in windows and um, hidden in my untidy front garden. 

Two chances.

Plastic witch with those jellied eyeballs, anyone?
                                                                     *


A very happy Halloween welcome from Dublin; thanks a million for dropping in today. Wherever you are, I hope you enjoy the 31st, whether or not you celebrate Halloween. And I'd love to hear from you. 
    

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Sharon.
 
 

Monday, 17 October 2016

IS THERE ANYTHING TO EAT?


                                 Food: When did it become about more than just having enough?


"IS THERE anything to eat in the house?"

Had I five cents, every time I hear that comment, I'd have an annoying amount of copper change.

But it seems to be one of those universal questions. Like, "are we there yet?" and "can we go now?".


Am I the only parent who doesn't get any thanks when she points to the fruit bowl?  

Have they put on a sugar tax?

But food, or at least the kind most youngsters love, and most parents try to minimise, is in the news in Ireland at the moment.


     "I have a really important question," the youngest said, as soon as he came out of school on Budget Day last week. "Have they put on a sugar tax?"

I'd caught snippets of the budget during the day. I hadn't heard anything about the proposed tax on sugary foods. We are, presumably, slapping on that tax for the same reasons other countries are doing it: in a bid to combat obesity.

Marmite is being pulled from the shelves.
    
     "I don't know. Would it matter if they did?" I asked. He appeared to think about it.

     "Well, I'd need more money to buy a bar of chocolate. And you give me my pocket money. So it'd probably matter to you."

He was polite as he pointed this out. I couldn't fault his logic.


But food is a hungry issue in Ireland right now.

One of the reasons is Brexit. Since Britain's decision to leave the European Union, the pound has plunged in value. Now consumer giant Unilever is hiking up wholesale prices for its products by a reported 10 percent, to help balance the books.

Are we just fussy?


Which means that in many of our big supermarkets, well known imported items like Marmite, Pot Noodles and Ben & Jerrys are being pulled from the shelves.

I'm still recovering from the shock of discovering that Unilever makes Ben & Jerrys. For too long I've clung to the fantasy that two fabulous men, dedicated to ice cream pleasure, make the stuff in their kitchens, package it, and send it, Santa-like all around the world. But I digress.

And sugar tax and Brexit aside, here's the really sticky issue. Food itself. Can anyone remember a time when food was so contentious? Are we really more aware? More allergic? More intolerant to gluten and dairy? Or are we just fussy?

As Halloween approaches, I'll be stocking up on sweets to hand out to the Trick-or-Treaters at the door. There's no point in mentioning that as a child, my loot on October 31st contained apples and nuts. Because that makes me a hundred years old.

Besides which, every single child now has a nut allergy. I know, because they're quite articulate about it.
     "Sorry, I can't have those nuts because me mam says I'm allergic."
     "Oh gosh, I'd better not give you any of these peanut bars, so."
     "Ah no, I'm not allergic to them."

However, if sugary treats do get a price hike, I'll be rationing them this Halloween.

I'll also offer apples. Organic, of course.

If anyone has a more insightful suggestion, let me know.
                                                             *



Wishing you a warm hello from Dublin; thanks a million for dropping in today. Please feel free to leave a comment.

     If you enjoyed my column, I'd love if you shared it (little buttons below).

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Have a great week,
Hugs & xx,
Sharon.

Monday, 3 October 2016

THIS HOUSE SUPPORTS THE MOTION FOR DEBATE




                                        
                    The benefits of learning to debate extend far beyond confidence building.

THE BOY announced he is joining the school's debating club.

There is mixed reaction to this news at home. As his parents, we already know how good he is at argument. The thought of him learning how to back up future showdowns with fact, examples, persuasive phrases and rebuttal, fills us with a certain trepidation.

Both his parents were on their own school debating teams. Clearly, we've made too much of our minor triumphs.

In which case we'll be forced to resort to "because we're your parents, that's why".

Which is not to say that learning to debate is not an excellent thing. I think of all the stuff he will learn: 


     1. Words are better than fists.
     2. Debates have to be thought through and prepared.
     3. A structured, coherent argument is vital.
     4. Public speaking and learning to rebut in the heat of the moment is confidence building.
     5. Learning both sides of the argument, in order to understand how your opponents will argue, is a life skill.

The last skill, unfortunately, may go against us at home. If the boy understands how we'll argue, he'll be more prepared than ever to win. In which case, we'll be forced to resort to because I said so, or because we're your parents, that's why.

And we already over use both those phrases.

I choose to believe that his interest stems from a lofty ideal.

There is another, obvious reason why teenage boys learning to debate isn't a bad idea. Whether they realise it or not, debating expands their vocabulary. Which is no mean thing in the case of a youngster who goes to bed a reasonably happy, verbal child and wakes up as a grunting adolescent.


His new interest in debating also coincides with his recent interest in the law. As his mother, I choose to believe that this stems from a lofty ideal, rather than how much lawyers earn.

Truth be told, none of this should come as a surprise to me. Debating (read arguing if you prefer), is a normal, natural part of every family. Show me the family that doesn't argue and I'll show you a quiet, peaceful...ahem, I mean a family who doesn't care enough to debate the issues of the day. Or at the very least, those that affect them.

In our house, this usually takes place at dinnertime. It begins when somebody mentions something they read about or saw on the news. It doesn't matter what it is: a politician or a celebrity (is there a difference anymore?), a country in crisis or the fact that loose horses held up traffic on the N4 in Dublin that morning. 

We'd solve the problem with The Pepper Pot Method: Anyone holding the pepper pot could talk.

Every single person around the table has a different opinion. And nobody is inclined to keep it to themselves.


When the offspring were little, we'd solve the problem with The Pepper Pot Method. The rules were simple:
    
     1. Anyone holding the pepper pot could talk.

     2. Nobody else could interrupt.

And sometimes that worked. Until a frustrated younger sibling would try to grab the pepper pot. Then all hell would break loose.

These days, dinnertime discussions...debates...arguments are a lot more civilised. We all happily talk over each other, hotly disagree, try to keep up as somebody goes off on a tangent, then on another tangent.

Most evenings none of us can remember what kick-started the big wordy mess. We are, no doubt, like many other families: a microcosm of a nation of people which loves to talk and argue.

Which brings us back to the idea of learning to properly debate. If all it ever teaches the boy is to always see the other person's side of the argument, then it will be worth it.

There are already far too many people in the world who can never see the other side.

So for the short term, his parents will have to brace themselves.

                                                      *

 


Warm hello from Dublin, and a big thanks for dropping in today. Please feel free to leave a comment.


If you enjoyed my column, I'd love if you shared it (little buttons below).

Fancy getting THIS FUNNY IRISH LIFE FREE via Email? (See the Follow by Email box to the top right of this post).

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   1. You'll NEVER MISS my fun, fortnightly personal column + updates/guest author posts!
   2. Your email address will NEVER be shared or misused.
No spamming - I promise.

Have a lovely week,
Thanks for reading,
Hugs & xx,
Sharon.