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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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 ;)  

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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. 

                                                                                  *


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. 💚)

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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