Tuesday, January 26, 2010

My Husbands Love Affair

“It looks like Saab could be gone” himself proclaimed recently, in a tone one would normally associate with the announcement of the death of a close family member. “Oh” I said, smiling a huge beamy smile inside. I am not at all upset to hear of the possible demise of the Swedish car company. Like Princess Di all those year ago, I can also say “there are 3 of us in this marriage” and like Di “it’s a bit crowded.” But instead of the horsey looking matron she had to worry about, my ‘other woman’ is a Saab convertible.

The only time I ever threw a vase at him was when he casually announced the purchase of the first convertible. Let me make it clear at this point, that both he and I have our own vehicles. He needs a jeep for his work. This extra car, we didn’t need and back then, we definitely could not afford it either. I tried to throw him out – he wouldn’t go. But I was so angry that he didn’t dare to bring his new purchase home for almost a year. He kept her, like a loyal mistress in a rented lock-up and visited her furtively, on his way home from work every so often. My anger eventually burnt out and we moved to a house with a garage and so she was formally introduced to the rest of the family. I should also say that this first convertible was not actually a Saab. Oh no, this was some kind of kit car that someone else had put together. It had only 2 tiny seats and travelled about 2 inches above the road.

One night he asked me if he could take me up the mountains to see the full moon and stars. Under the cover of darkness we wedged ourselves into this ridiculous car and off we went. The moon and stars were lovely alright but we looked like two elephants in a matchbox as we breezed south on the N11.

Bless him, he spent an entire winter rebuilding the dashboard. Finally after many long, freezing nights in the garage he proudly announced that his work was finished. She had a lovely shiny metallic dashboard. Great. “I’m just going to take her out now for a bit of a run” he announced, “see you in an hour.” Off he went. But about fifteen minutes later I heard him coming in for a landing on the drive. “What happened” I asked nervously looking for signs of damage. “I indicated at the junction and all the electrics blew”. Changing a light bulb is really the extent of his gift with electrics - or any DIY for that matter. And so like all mistresses, old Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was outliving her mystique. He decided to put her up for sale and so began his indulgence in Saabs.

Our Saabs are always a few years old and come from the UK. So each purchase has involved a one way Ryanair ticket to some regional British airport and ferry crossing home. These trips are planned with the same passion and energy of many adoptive parents on their way to Vietnam or China. Paperwork has to be sorted and VRT payments organised. And finally he arrives proudly driving his new baby down the road. This palaver has happened so often now that the only member of the family to display any excitement is the dog. And he gets excited any time anyone comes home!

Our garage has long since been converted and so the Saab lives on the driveway where it only gets very occasional use. Instead we grow a lovely kind of vibrant green moss on the soft top which also provides a cosy, warm, hammock-like bed for the cat on sunny mornings.

I think we were on Saab No 3 when he lost it altogether and decided that I would like one of my own. And so on our 10th Wedding Anniversary I was presented with the key to my very own Saab. Great! We now had 2 spare cars, one of which had to be parked around the corner as the driveway and road outside the house was full. After allowing him to bask in the glory of his huge generosity for a few months I finally got him to realise that having to pay two insurances and two road taxes for garden ornaments was madness. We sold both and yep – he bought another one.
About 3 or 4 times a year, usually on a sunny Sunday he gives his beloved Saab a good seeing to! She gets washed by hand, paying attention to all her nooks and crannys. He completes this ritual with a massage of polish. Afterwards they both sit and bask in the shine!

His devotion to Saab is total and unconditional. A couple of years ago, I thought we could all do with a sunshine break and found us a good deal for a week in the Canaries. He declined to join us saying he was too busy. Off we went and while we were away he managed to free enough time to pay to visit to Sweden to visit the Saab museum. I kid you not!

And the most amazing thing of all? We are still married, cos unlike the tragic Diana – I won’t let the bitch win!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


It is now a week since the disastrous earthquake in Haiti. Since then the descriptions and images coming from the beleaguered Caribbean country have been truly horrific.

In the last few days I have been visited by one particular set of images. They are of another me. A Haitian me. A wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend who has lost so much; loved ones, her home, pets, a livelihood, normality. I am struck by her almost overwhelming fear; fear of further quakes and aftershocks, fear of the aggression of others who are driven to the brink of insanity by the enormity of what has happened, fear of long nights full of foul stenches and total darkness. I am struck by her loss and her grief which has no expression as she struggles for her own survival and that of her children. And I am struck by her loss of hope. In ways that is the worst of all. A life without hope is a life without light.

And perhaps this is what we, here in the safety and security of the developed world, are called to do at this time. Perhaps our job now is to hold the light, hold the hope for our sisters and brothers in Haiti. We must stand firm while they struggle with despair and misery.

We are the carriers of the message that all is not lost. We must hold the vision of better days ahead for Haiti. As we feel their pain and bear witness to their suffering, through whatever means we choose, be it prayer, fundraising, moments of silent meditation, we hold the light.

We guard the hope of a bright, brand new day which is just beyond view. Just over the horizon.


"Now the music's gone but they carry on

For their spirit's been bruised, never broken

They will not forget but their hearts are set

on tomorrow and peace once again

For what's done is done and what's won is won

and what's lost is lost and gone forever

I can only pray for a bright, brand new day

in the town I loved so well "

Phil Coulter

Thursday, January 14, 2010


Christmas and the New Year are always a time of over indulgence. Too much rich food and alcohol means that I, like many, staggered into 2010 feeling like a poisoned pup. But thanks to Mother’s Nature’s winter wonderland, instead of staggering out for long, brisk walks with Dylan, I merely staggered to the nearest sofa, clutching handfuls of peanuts or chocolate roses in one hand and the TV remote in the other. Last night I contemplated my shape which is fast beginning to resemble the snowman the girls built in the garden – only taller!

And so, like thousands of women, I am embarking on a phase of increased exercise and healthy eating (I hate the word diet – but you get the picture). Hunger pangs stalk my waking moments and in an effort to combat them I turn to day dreaming about the various items of clothing that languish in my wardrobe waiting for the day I might fit into them again. Sometimes these daydreams get very exciting and involve shopping trips during which I purchase things like high heeled, thigh high boots, mini skirts and all manner of sex kitten clobber. Then I come back to earth when I remember that I have never been a sex kitten – even in my teenage years. The fact that I was head and shoulders taller than all my friends, ruled out high heels and my legs ruled out short skirts.

God gave me the long legs but he got the width measurement all wrong – surprisingly. And so in my youth, my legs were at least two sizes too big for the rest of me. To compound his error, God also gifted me with two knees on each leg. Of course I still have big, lumpy knees – only now they match the rest of me!

But my long legs have caused me fashion headaches for as long as I can remember. As a child, I had to wear tights to school in the winter and I don’t think I ever owned a pair that fitted me. I pulled them on and up and things seemed fine, until I began to walk. And so I developed a winter walking style all my own – which involved two normal strides and one giant one as I attempted to subtly manoeuvre the crotch back to where it belonged. It was a losing battle and as I arrived at school my tights had travelled south towards my knees where they thankfully got stuck, saving me any obvious embarrassment, other than the wrinkled gathering of spare tight at each ankle!

As a young adult, in the early 80’s, I was often told “you are so lucky, being tall, you could wear anything”. I heard this so much that I began to believe it. So in a rush of enthusiasm off I went to purchase the seasons must have – a satin jumpsuit. It was purple and I thought very sophisticated in a Challenge Anneka kind of way (Anneka Rice - do not post a comment asking who she is - ask your mother). I decided that a formal Gala Dinner (big in corporate Ireland in the 80’s) would be the perfect occasion to christen my new outfit. Big permed hair, silver blusher, glitter eye shadow and my purple satin jumpsuit and off I went, delighted with myself. But not long into the evening I began to realise I was having problems standing up straight. If I did, the neck at the back of my suit was pulled downwards with the resultant pulling northwards of the front. Again my crotch was a feature of this wardrobe malfunction and visions of camel’s feet also come to mind. I did little dancing that night.

Fast forward to about ten years ago. Having recently given birth to my third child, I had abandoned any thoughts of getting my girly figure, albeit with all its shortcomings, back again. I needed some help and who should come along with just what I needed but those two witches, Trinny and Susannah and their magic knickers. Magic knickers were guaranteed to lift your bum, hold in your tum and were designed to stretch up all the way to just under your boobs. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a pair. I know I paid a fortune for mine which were purchased in a proper lingerie shop.

It was Christmas and me and him were meeting some friends for a posh dinner. I excitedly pulled on my magic knickers and my new festive outfit and took a look in the mirror. Definite improvement – a lot of the lumps and bumps had magically vanished. God Bless Trinny and Susannah and off we went. It was as we were walking into the restaurant, waving at our friends that I had the very disconcerting feeling of my magic knickers magically rolling themselves back up as though their job was done. Just like my school tights I think that my magic drawers were designed for shorter women. And so I spent an uncomfortable night looking lumpier than ever as my own excess poundage came up for air, joined by a redundant roll of expensive undergarment.

So I am not under any illusions in reality about shaping myself into the me of my dreams, six feet tall with long, sexy legs and a figure to die for. Just a bit less like snow-woman would be good. Wish me luck!
Photo by Markusram on Flickr.com