My Funny Valentine…

Is cross, angry and unhappy with me. Being a guy means he has a “weakened sense of telepathy.” I don’t really consider this statement until I really consider this statement. Does this mean he has no idea what I’m thinking of until I say it out loud? Bloody hell. Run for the hills, or speak my mind.

A cubbyhole in the Mater Hospital breathing with the help of a nebuliser is possibly not the best place to dole out Valentine’s advice. My poor brother, he was only after the name of a decent restaurant. Forget about it he insists, he’d only heard about my being in A&E when he wondered why I didn’t call back, and started ringing round. I insist harder: what other recommendations did you get? When he gives me the options I shoot each of them down for various reasons. I’m right, of course. There are certain social boxes that need to be ticked when you’re in the early stages of a ‘thing’. I tell him I’ll think about it and text back the names and locations of 5 restaurants that I know will work. I’m a sucker for a little romance.

I’m already smitten with the Valentine’s section in Marks & Spencer: chocolates, candles, heart-shaped lights, heart-shaped hot water bottles, heart-shaped anything, really…what’s not to love? If I was aiming to impress me I’d decorate the living room and cook me dinner. I’m a sucker for good steak and a bottle of Bordeaux. Do many men do that, I wonder idly as I concentrate on my breathing, as opposed to the junkies in A&E in their pajamas. I nostalgically remember being made a card by an ex-boyfriend, a few years back. I’m a sucker for small gestures.

The sympathetic doctor in the Mater (I must be poorly, I don’t attempt flirting on any level) confirms I have reasonably chronic pleurisy and pneumonia, and sends me home with strict instructions to stay in bed. Not with him, alas, so I dismiss visions of him reading me poetry/feeding me teacakes, “Thou art to me a delicious torment…” Leaving Cert poetry from an overworked A&E doctor? Hmm, maybe not. Then he makes me laugh by asking me what he should get his new girlfriend for Valentine’s Day. A Swarovski heart-shaped key-ring, I answer immediately. He’s baffled at the suggestion. “It’s an early days, perfectly lovely gesture….” He shakes his head at the idea of a woman getting excited over a key-ring. I bet he buys it all the same. I’m a sucker for doing the right thing.

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What Defines a (Sexual) Soul Mate?

“Do you believe in soul mates?”
“Well, I like the word soul, and I like the word mate. After that, you got me.”

Females – in general – are obsessed with soul mates. Most of the women I know spend their entire lives searching for the right man, finally get him to commit and then spend the little spare time they have telling me to hang onto my freedom. Yet they’re still obsessed with me finding a ‘keeper’. “Is he The One?” “Is he your Soul Mate?” “Is he Mr Right?” Eh, he’s Mr Right NOW…

I think they do this to perpetuate the myth. You know, the one that says we’re supposed to be with the same person forever and love and cherish them forever. Even if the charmer leaves his dirty jocks on the floor on a daily basis. Can you imagine if that was two girls living together? “Oh, I dropped my knickers, sorry, it must have been on the way to the washing machine….” Incidentally, the reason some men don’t ‘see’ stuff like that is because their Irish mammies train them not to ‘see’ stuff like that. I watched a ten-year-old boy change out of his school uniform yesterday. From the other side of the living room, I watched him take it off, roll it in a ball, and fling it out of his general direction. When I called out, “Pick it up! Fold it! Put it Away!”, he gathered it back up and told me in a stunned voice that he didn’t know how to fold it…and that he didn’t know where it went afterwards. There’s a ten-year-old Irish girl out there just waiting to grow up and adore his mum. Or what about the men that say, “Are you cleaning again?” Yes, but only because it’s dirty again…

Anyhow, soul mates. They’re hard to find and even harder to understand. And then there’s all the sex…What if you find someone you have unbelievable, knock-your-socks-off, do-it-like-they-do-in-the-movies sex, but he’s somewhat lacking in the life-partner department? Hmm. Let’s be honest, good sex is hard to come by. With the knowledge of some 20 years (gulp) experience, I can confidently say that both sexes fall into one of three groups when it comes to ‘doing it’. A) They love it and want you to love it back so you figure it out together or, B) They’re intimidated, don’t really know how to do it and therefore end up doing nothing or C) they’re slightly put off by certain elements of it so pretend those bits don’t exist. I know there are girls – and guys – out there who have given up ‘movie sex’ in return for a home, a family and the opportunity to ‘we’ at every given opportunity. As in, “we’ve booked a romantic chalet in the French Alps for the weekend.” Then the photos are produced and everyone is pea-green with envy. Except I know the man (in question) spent the weekend avoiding sexy time by falling asleep on the couch. Why? “The sex is meh.”

Equally, I know a couple (or two) who are so stitched in together, so entwined, that when I grow up I want to be just like them.

Whether we like to admit it or not, sex is the cornerstone to every relationship and good sex is the key. As is communicating, laughing, shared interests, support, trust…the list goes on. There’s so much stuff involved it stands to reason that soul mates are nigh on impossible to find. And anyhow, what if you think you’ve already met yours? Are you entitled to another, or is it just one per person? Who decides?

My own perception of a soul mate changes on a daily basis. Monday: validate my life. Tuesday: rub my feet. Wednesday: indulge me in some midweek madness. Thursday: cook me dinner. Friday. Blow my mind (pun intended). Saturday: do couple ‘stuff.’ Sunday: make me a rasher sandwich and lead me back to bed. It’s a difficult job, I agree. And that’s only my list.

soul mate
– noun
a person with whom one has a strong affinity.

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Just Like Riding a Bike

I’m not really one for a spot of DIY, I’m more inclined to ‘get a man in’ when anything needs doing, be it painting, hanging, installing…you get the picture. However, I’ve recently decided to rent my wardrobe out (for wardrobe, think spare double bedroom) and made the decision to – gulp – Do It Myself. Before I even began to think about painting and decorating, I had to figure out where the hell I was going to store about €60k worth of designer clothes, handbags and shoes. Hmm, in particular, the shoe boxes would be a problem. Enter Heatons, who sell a spectacular range of coffin shaped bags that will store all the loves of your fashion life – neatly arranged one on top of each other – and zipped up securely to keep out dust. Eleven bags later…the room was empty and I had a catalogued list of items for each bag. The lists are seasonal, so – depending on the weather – I can flick through the relevant one, pick what I want to wear and then – voila! – produce it from the right bag. The devil is in the detail 🙂

Before I began painting, I wiped the walls and skirting boards and covered the furniture in a sheet. With an old makeup brush, I lightly painted filler into a couple of picture hook holes, waited 60 minutes for it to dry, then gently sandpapered the spots smooth. On yesterday’s newspapers I arranged my paint tin, tray, two rollers (one for down the back of the radiator, the other for the walls), and three different brushes; one for the edges, a smaller one for corners and the smallest one for around sockets. I poured paint into the tray and rolled it up to the sloping part, making sure I had just the right amount of paint on my brush.

I instinctively started from the left hand side of the room and worked my way around, always rolling up and down, never across. I worked quietly and methodically, with Lyric FM entertaining me in the background. When I was finished rolling, I brought the roller and the tray into the sink, washed them thoroughly and laid them out to air dry. Then I started on my edges, again working left to right. I left inside of the windowsill to the end and once it was done, I checked around the room to see if anywhere needed a quick wipe. It didn’t. Then I gathered up the sheet, put it in the wash and put the room back to rights.

The entire time I was painting I could hear my Mam in my head, “Like this Ash, see? Up and down,” or “Not that brush, it’s too big, the other one,” or “You hold that up while I measure it,” or “If we start now, we’ll be finished by lunchtime,” or the most dreaded, “It must be time to paint the living room again…”

20 years ago, my Mother was the biggest do-it-yourself type the world has ever known. 20 years ago, in our home, at least, there was no such thing as hiring a painter-decorator, so we did it ourselves and with 5 kids, the rooms got done fairly quickly. Which is handy really, since she liked to paint at least twice a year.

So thanks, Mam, because of cheap labour and an obsessive hobby, I’ve successfully painted the spare room, with absolutely no drama involved. And now for the bathroom!

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When Downsizing Throws up a Gem

Losing my high-flying career job a couple of years ago threw up some problems for me; namely what the hell was I was going to with my life and how the hell was I going to pay an astronomical mortgage that had been bought on a whim 6 yeas previous. It was a struggle, plain and simple. I’ve had to learn about the simple things in life and forget all about the latest designer must-haves. And when I feel like I’ve been wandering slightly in an unknown fashion wilderness or that I need to remind of the shockingly hallow (I mean fabulous) existence I once had, why, all I need to do is open my revolving storage closet that is home to about €60k worth of designer clothes, bags and shoes.

Losing my job, my career, my identify and my lifestyle certainly threw up a couple of curve balls. I decided to change career completely – print is dead and I wanted to get out before I had to watch a ship I liked actually go down, and anyhow, I was finding myself slightly jaded from jigsawing magazines together. When you realise you can do it with your eyes closed and you catch yourself thinking could you cog your own work from a previous year, then you know it really is time to move on. But to what?

A friend suggested Montessori Teaching – I’m a small-child-magnet, no one understands or can explains why – and I found I liked the idea. The astronomical drop in salary didn’t bother me, I took to Montessori like a fish to water and soon realised I was born to impart as much knowledge as I could to my fantastically interested and clever bunch of 3-6 year olds. They rock, if the truth be known. But the Celtic Tiger mortgage is still hanging round my neck, just waiting for an opportunity to strangle me with the handle of one of my Gucci bags, like the most perfect example of living beyond your means. Part-time childminding seemed the obvious answer. I could work my own hours, I knew enough yummy-mummies looking to offload their babies so they could hit Brown Thomas on a regular basis to keep me going and in fact, the real-life, shocking experiences produced invaluable – and hysterical – material for my course work. If I combined college, kids and magazines – always making sure to keep three very separate to-do lists – it might work.

Minding someone else’s kids for a living is a real eye opener. Children are shockingly honest, if they like you they let you know; if they don’t, you get the 4-year-old version of being blackballed. The obvious downsides are the regular – and painful – headbutts, never ever being able to go to the bathroom on your own, constantly smelling of banana, or yogurt or creamed cauliflower, having to strip off entirely when you go home because even your knickers have chocolate or paint prints on them, and trying to come up with different answers to ‘but why’ at least 200 times per day.

Professional Headbutter

As well as entertain the headbutting, bullet-proof baby, I also have a 4-year-old who really believes she’s a princess, and talks to everyone according. She is also my Montessori muse so we might spend a quality 2 hours every day making an entire ‘forest glade’ scene, complete with the weather, baby birds, a magical lake with frogs and lily-pads, and a great big old tree, that grows all sorts of flowers and fruit. I’ve taught her how to read and write, how to count, how it interact with her peers and how to communicate.

A weird one for me to experience initially was the ‘school gate’ situation in that I’m not a mother, but I sure as hell ain’t an au pair either. I’m in the same age group as most of the mums and have met several of them on social ocassions. One of the children is my godchild, so I guess you could say I’ve been a fairy godmother presence for a few years now. The mothers I meet at the school I immediately place into one of 3 categories; the yummy-mummy who loves her kids but loves her lifestyle more; the working mum who’s trying to provide everything she never had; and the bored-obsessive mummy who doesn’t have a job, won’t introduce her kids to anything that resembles pop culture and is slowing going insane, trying to create the perfect-parent image. Which, incidentally, doesn’t exist. From a not-done-it-yet perspective, I’d imagine the key is marrying late, having one or (at the very most) two children only and always trying to remember why you’re together in the first place. Yeah, him! After all, there’s no point despising someone now that you’re going to have to hang out with in your sixties, when your baby rocks off to college. Which he will.

The upsides of part-time childminding have been the newly found love, I guess.

'We love you Ash'

Not just from the headbutting maniacs but the long term stuff too. Like when one of them was drawing me recently and put a lot of effort into getting my “big, happy smile” just perfect, or the artwork that litters my fridge; drawings of happy scenarios that include me – how on earth could I throw those out? Or being told by a 3-year-old that you’re their best friend in the whole world, and the only person they tell their secrets too.

There’s been additions to my long term adult friendships too; I have gate-mum friends that I go for walks and drink desinger coffee with too, and they allow me a riviting eye-opener into a lifestyle I’m not quite ready to sign on for. Gate-mums are the same everywhere I would imagine, unless you’re lucky enough to work the school gate with my new BFF, Ger.

BFFs

A working scientist, a yummy-mummy, a fun-times enthusiast and someone who believes she married her soulmate, my BFF is interesting, intelligent, funny and beautiful. We have a shared love of red wine, chocolate, gossip, tall tales and laughing. It was a match made in heaven, if I’m honest. Everynow and then we get together for what I call some ‘Ger-Love’, we make each other feel super, get drunk and talk complete shite. If we’re out and about, we spend the night being hit on by guys that are attracted to smiling and laughing, and if we sit in, we talk at a million miles per minute, never finishing a story, always finishing the wine and realising yet again, that we will know each other for a lifetime. The Celtic Tiger may have come and gone, but downsizing can throw up some gems.

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When Downsizing Throws up a Gem

Losing my high-flying career job a couple of years ago threw up some problems for me; namely what the hell was I was going to with my life and how the hell was I going to pay an astronomical mortgage that had been bought on a whim 6 yeas previous. It was a struggle, plain and simple. I’ve had to learn about the simple things in life and forget all about the latest designer must-haves. And when I feel like I’ve been wandering slightly in an unknown fashion wilderness or that I need to remind of the shockingly hallow (I mean fabulous) existence I once had, why, all I need to do is open my revolving storage closet that is home to about €60k worth of designer clothes, bags and shoes.

Losing my job, my career, my identify and my lifestyle certainly threw up a couple of curve balls. I decided to change career completely – print is dead and I wanted to get out before I had to watch a ship I liked actually go down, and anyhow, I was finding myself slightly jaded from jigsawing magazines together. When you realise you can do it with your eyes closed and you catch yourself thinking could you cog your own work from a previous year, then you know it really is time to move on. But to what?

A friend suggested Montessori Teaching – I’m a small-child-magnet, no one understands or can explains why – and I found I liked the idea. The astronomical drop in salary didn’t bother me, I took to Montessori like a fish to water and soon realised I was born to impart as much knowledge as I could to my fantastically interested and clever bunch of 3-6 year olds. They rock, if the truth be known. But the Celtic Tiger mortgage is still hanging round my neck, just waiting for an opportunity to strangle me with the handle of one of my Gucci bags, like the most perfect example of living beyond your means. Part-time childminding seemed the obvious answer. I could work my own hours, I knew enough yummy-mummies looking to offload their babies so they could hit Brown Thomas on a regular basis to keep me going and in fact, the real-life, shocking experiences produced invaluable – and hysterical – material for my course work. If I combined college, kids and magazines – always making sure to keep three very separate to-do lists – it might work.

Minding someone else’s kids for a living is a real eye opener. Children are shockingly honest, if they like you they let you know; if they don’t, you get the 4-year-old version of being blackballed.

Professional Headbutter

The obvious downsides are the regular – and painful – headbutts, never ever being able to go to the bathroom on your own, constantly smelling of banana, or yogurt or creamed cauliflower, having to strip off entirely when you go home because even your knickers have chocolate or paint prints on them, and trying to come up with different answers to ‘but why’ at least 200 times per day.

As well as entertain the headbutting, bullet-proof baby, I also have a 4-year-old who really believes she’s a princess, and talks to everyone according. She is also my Montessori muse so we might spend a quality 2 hours every day making an entire ‘forest glade’ scene, complete with the weather, baby birds, a magical lake with frogs and lily-pads, and a great big old tree, that grows all sorts of flowers and fruit. I’ve taught her how to read and write, how to count, how it interact with her peers and how to communicate.

A weird one for me to experience initially was the ‘school gate’ situation in that I’m not a mother, but I sure as hell ain’t an au pair either. I’m in the same age group as most of the mums and have met several of them on social ocassions. One of the children is my godchild, so I guess you could say I’ve been a fairy godmother presence for a few years now. The mothers I meet at the school I immediately place into one of 3 categories; the yummy-mummy who loves her kids but loves her lifestyle more; the working mum who’s trying to provide everything she never had; and the bored-obsessive mummy who doesn’t have a job, won’t introduce her kids to anything that resembles pop culture and is slowing going insane, trying to create the perfect-parent image. Which, incidentally, doesn’t exist. From a not-done-it-yet perspective, I’d imagine the key is marrying late, having one or (at the very most) two children only and always trying to remember why you’re together in the first place. Yeah, him! After all, there’s no point despising someone now that you’re going to have to hang out with in your sixties, when your baby rocks off to college. Which he will.

The upsides of part-time childminding have been the newly found love, I guess.

'We love you Ash'

Not just from the headbutting maniacs but the long term stuff too. Like when one of them was drawing me recently and put a lot of effort into getting my “big, happy smile” just perfect, or the artwork that litters my fridge; drawings of happy scenarios that include me – how on earth could I throw those out? Or being told by a 3-year-old that you’re their best friend in the whole world, and the only person they tell their secrets too.

There’s been additions to my long term adult friendships too; I have gate-mum friends that I go for walks and drink desinger coffee with too, and they allow me a riviting eye-opener into a lifestyle I’m not quite ready to sign on for. Gate-mums are the same everywhere I would imagine, unless you’re lucky enough to work the school gate with my new BFF, Ger.

BFFs

A working scientist, a yummy-mummy, a fun-times enthusiast and someone who believes she married her soulmate, my BFF is interesting, intelligent, funny and beautiful. We have a shared love of red wine, chocolate, gossip, tall tales and laughing. It was a match made in heaven, if I’m honest. Everynow and then we get together for what I call some ‘Ger-Love’, we make each other feel super, get drunk and talk complete shite. If we’re out and about, we spend the night being hit on by guys that are attracted to smiling and laughing, and if we sit in, we talk at a million miles per minute, never finishing a story, always finishing the wine and realising yet again, that we will know each other for a lifetime. The Celtic Tiger may have come and gone, but downsizing can throw up some gems.

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Adventures in Hairdressing

“Soft blonde, strawberry blonde or blow his socks off blonde?”

My hairdresser is a lot like me. She’s blonde, slightly wicked and giggles at everything. She took control of my barnet many years ago and we haven’t looked back since. She’s my friend, my confidante and my personal life advisor! We spend 3 or 4 hours every 6 weeks or so laughing, telling shocking stories and interrupting each other. She doesn’t just colour my hair, she pours me a glass of wine, gauges my mood and colours me accordingly. She’s lovely, she is.

I have only one rule when it comes to hairdressing – only the best! Myself and my 15-year-old BF decided to colour my hair out of boredom a million years ago but read the instructions on the box wrong. We stripped the colour out, but we didn’t dye it back in. When we woke up in her bedroom the following morning, it was Sunday, I had orange hair and Roches Stores wasn’t open. We had to wait till after school the following day. The girl in Roches took one look at me and remarked on how lucky I was that it hadn’t all fallen out – and marched away, throwing a nonchalant ‘you could cut it all off’ over her shoulder. The bitch. So I did. But I didn’t mean it to be SO short. At 15, and 5 ft 6” and really, really skinny, I had a half inch of orange hair. I still have nightmares about it now. It took me about 4 years – and a million tears! – to not stop and scream at myself every time I passed a mirror.

Then one night I met a friend of a friend in a pub in Dublin. He was – and still is – gorgeous, and a really good hairdresser. He was also extremely sexy, and soo hot. Ah, the memories ☺ He started cutting my hair and when he set up his own salon, I moved with him. 6 or so salons, a lovely wife and several important significant others later and we rarely cross paths, but he’s my friend and I wouldn’t dream of moving any place else. I’m loyal, you see.

I had my hair done recently with someone new for the first time in years and I knew there was only one person I could trust to tell me the truth – she of the box of dye and a million ideas. She looked, and stared and looked. “It’s not…right.” What’s wrong with it? “I don’t know. It just doesn’t look right. It’s nice and everything, but you look a bit weird. You’re going to have to move with her.”

It’s the end of an era!

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When Life is Beautiful

Unintentionally home alone on a Saturday night. And really quite sick. “Bronchitis, a lung infection and a chest x-ray on Monday morning to rule out a possible case of pneumonia.” Hmm.

I could go to bed and feel sorry for myself…or I could have a warm, candle-lit bath, smother myself in lush Aveda products, turn on some good music and start practising for Come Dine With Me. Paella with chorizo, chicken and prawns. Eyes on the prize, my friends.

My horrible cough turned a corner at around 4am this morning and suddenly stopped. I was all coughed out, apparently. When I eventually hauled myself out of bed at lunchtime I felt better, but like I’d been in a car crash – I feel like I’ve bruises everywhere, even though I don’t. But I’m back to myself again; I can feel it in my bones.

I run around all day knowing I’ve a good man calling later to ‘look after me’. Everywhere is clean and tidy and warm and lovely. Not that he cares, that stuff is just for me. I organise my worried-about-me Mam to come bring me grocery shopping and am in Brady’s * buying two pieces of fillet steak I was raised very, very far from when I get a text asking can he come tomorrow night instead, his friend needs a buddy night. Hmm.

Ah well. He can make up for it tomorrow. I settle into a night created purely for me, and switch my man-anticipation to tomorrow night. Life is good.

*Best butchers in Dublin ☺

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