The terrible twosome ....

Let me start off by saying I am not a fan of John and Edward. I watch them in much the same way as I do a horror movie- from behind my fingers and in the hope it will end soon.

But - they are just kids. I heard a radio station 'joke' advertisement earlier today for twin dolls you can use to vent your frustration with by hitting. I may have been more forgiving of the so called joke if it had been funny but it was - if you can believe this - more painful to listen to than John and Edward's rendition of 'Oops'.

Everyone has jumped on the whole - oh they're so embarrassing and making it shameful to be Irish - wagon.

They're not. They're teenage kids having a whale of a time because Louis Walsh has given them a platform to do so. And what teenager isn't a sap or a know it all or a bit of a fool? I know I was. Thankfully I didn't have a camera projecting my shortcomings to millions of people.

They're seventeen year old boys and they're an easy target. Let them off. Despite their hugely significant shortcomings in the music and dance departments they're managing to do fairly well. Better that someone sitting snivelling in a corner, saying life isn't fair.

OK so it must be annoying for the people out there with actual talent who didn't make the X Factor cut but let's face it, John and Edward can't sing and they can't dance. They're not going to go a long way so why not let them enjoy their moment in the spotlight.

They'll be back home studying for the Leaving Cert soon enough.

Bananas in pyjamas

Three things always occur to me when I see women wearing their pj's in the street.

1. It's ugly.

2. They're stupid.

3. It's cold!!!!

Aside from the really obvious fact that wearing nightwear while you traipse up and down the street and into your local Tesco to buy your supper looks plain daft, it's not practical either.

Pyjamas are designed to keep you warm in bed while you're snuggled under the duvet with a hot water bottle. These women in their special bed to street wear must have permanently blue legs.

Now I don't mind suffering a bit to look good. We've all suffered sore feet from high heels and cold calves that even the thickest of tights can't protect from Winter winds but, while I'd never claim to be a fashion forward goddess, at least I suffer wearing clothes that look good! Well at least I wearing clothes.

Fake silk and flannel does not look good unless confined to the bedroom and unless confined to the bedroom it's not toasty either.

Women of Ireland I beg you.

As you fling open your wardrobe doors to choose an outfit to wear to the shops bypass the shelves of nightwear and reach out for a pair of jeans.

There's a long cold Winter coming and our casualty departments have enough to do without tending to freezing females who can't stand because their frozen legs are unable to support them.

Too old?

I've got a thrill seeking devil on one shoulder and a sensible angel on the other.

The devil is whispering all kinds of great ideas like - give up your job, take a year out before it's too late, make the break before the babies - into my ear.

The angel is telling me to stop right where I am and have some sense, we're in the middle of a global recession and I'm lucky enough to have a job - to give it up would be plain stupid.

I admit the angel makes a valid point which is why I probably won't be giving up my job and heading down under to pick grapes and enjoy tinnies at sunset but why do I feel so bad for even thinking about the possibility of such a venture?

My mother nearly had heart failure when I suggested it. She said I should have more sense at my age. I'm only in my twenties - hardly ready to draw my pension (which I might add has dwindled to next to nothing in the last year.) I could think of far worse things to confess over Sunday dinner but I doubt admitting to mass murder would have provoked such a reaction. At least in jail I'd have a roof over my head and three square meals a day.

It seems to me that anyone who thinks of travelling past the age of twenty five is considered a hippie, a feckless hippie that the state will end up supporting at that. I want to be that hippie!

I want to blow my savings on a big adventure but my middle class mentality is standing in my way, preventing me from becoming the free spirit I know I could be.

The problem is I spend too much time considering it and then the fear sets in.

The fear that if I take a risk now I'll never again find a man as wonderful as John (he laughs just a tad hysterically every time I suggest the idea of anything longer than a two week trip)and I'll never work again because the job market has shrunk around the world. The fear that I'll get stuck in Australia with no money and be forced to work in a menial job for years just to save enough money to get home.

The problem is although I feel like I'm twenty two, my mindset is not. I should have done this five years ago - before I became repulsed by messy untidy apartments that house dozens and became used to having money in my bank account.

Point of no return

When I decided to move in with John I was given lots of warnings by friends who'd already handed over their single passes and nestled into coupledom.

My sex life was going to become duller than ditch water they said(that was assuming of course that I'd have any sex life to speak of after a few months.) I'd spend my life picking John's socks up off the floor and it simply wasn't worth my while waging war over the toilet seat - I would never win.

So far we've weathered the worst of the storm. Nearly a year in and we're still having lots of sex - some good, some bad but mostly pretty hot. I throw a tantrum over the toilet seat roughly every two months (which has no impact -it remains firmly upright until I bang it down) but all in all I'd say it's going pretty well.

I'll confess I thought that the novelty of seeing each other every morning and every night would wear off pretty quickly. Being honest I gave it a fortnight before we got sick of each other.

I was wrong. We still get on great and love being around each other but I realised this week that we're too comfortable with each other. On Thursday evening we reached the point of no return.

It happened at half past seven when I wandered into the living room and settled down on the sofa beside John who was watching television.

"Jesus!"He said jumping up.

"What?" I asked, looking around.

"Your lip!"

"My lip?"

"It's frothing."

"No, I'm bleaching."

Too much information? Should I have let him continue thinking my upper lip was free of stray dark hairs. Maybe. Maybe not.

On Thursday night I thought I was a liberated woman and was quietly proud of the fact that I hadn't skulked around in the bathroom for the fifteen minutes it takes for my facial hair to turn golden.

Today I feel a little differently.

You see I've broken down boundaries that should have stayed in place, which I only I realised this morning as John went for a pee while I watched in horror from the shower.

Baby on the brain

So John wants to get busy making babies, even though we live in a fairly small two bed apartment in Dublin city centre.
I have to admit that a baby isn't on my agenda at all.
Is it normal for men to be broody?
I'm hoping this is a phase that passes quickly.

You know you're old when ....

Sunny days become good drying days.

You hear krystle and your first thought is glassware.

Driving is no longer a novelty and you refuse to get behind the wheel during rush hour.

The first thing you pack for a festival is anti bacterial handwash, then toilet paper,then spare clothes and then booze.

You rave about non stick saucepans.

Shopping around - for groceries - becomes interesting.

You boast about 'your famous recipe', which involves adding half a bottle of wine to bolognese made with Ragu sauce.

You bypass nightclubs because it's too hard to have a conversation in them.

You want to tell teenagers to brush their hair out of their eyes.

You really look forward to a good cup of tea when you get home from your holidays.

The N word

Women are not natural naggers but men drive them to it.

It's true.

If you don't believe me ask any women who's moved in with her fella.

Here's the deal. Well my deal anyway.

I ask John to do something - let's say wash the dishes - and he says 'yeah, no problem.'

Off I go to work delighted that we're a new age couple who share the house cleaning burden evenly.

You can only imagine my surprise when I come home later that same night and find the dishes still there - this time with a few extra plates in the pile.

I bite my lip and ignore the teetering pile of china for the night, I will not be tagged a nag.

The next day I'm off to work again and say oh so casually as I leave 'Babe will you sort out the dishes.' 'Sure no problem' comes the reply.

I'll admit to begin just a tad antsy about the issue now but I'm confident my intelligent and thoughtful boyfriend will sort out the kitchen. After all we have a dishwasher.

Home again - no change.

Next day - no change.

It's at this point I lose my temper and complain there isn't so much as a clean mug for us to share. To which comes the oh so predictable and frustrating reply 'Jesus Niamh, you're turning into such a nag.'

No I'm not. But it's so easy for men to feel smug and to silence their women with that one word.

And the ridiculous thing is that most women are so fearful of complaining and being seen as some old biddy nine times out of ten you'll find them picking up the dirty socks that managed to land beside, but not in, the clothes basket, hanging up the towels that would otherwise languish on the bathroom floor, and bringing the recycling downstairs because their home is in danger of becoming a fire hazard.

I know I'm not alone in this.

I genuinely never believed men and women were all that different until I moved in with John.

He doesn't see dirt. I'm not making excuses, the man will sweep a floor and simply not see a mountain of dirt left behind in a corner. He claims to be allergic to dust yet remains unaffected when the apartment is untouched by polish for a fortnight.

Personally I'm not the most houseproud of girls. I'm more an - out of sight - kind of person so I know I'm not being unreasonable in my requests and , hand on heart, I know I'm not a nag.

A nag is someone who's never done complaining. Asking for a bit of help around the house is normal, if the job isn't done or isn't done right and the request is repeated, well that's normal too.

Guys - unless you're living with some virago who berates you on a daily basis and refuses to let you put your feet up with a few cans during the endless football season then you're not living with a nag.

If you don't like helping out - pay for a cleaner - otherwise suck it up and leave off the n word.

Daring to dream

Along with 40 million other people around the world this week I've logged onto youtube to watch the world's newest singing sensation.
Susan Boyle of Britain's Got Talent fame. A middle aged woman with a middle aged spread whose voice should supercede her looks but which has been somewhat drowned out in the storm over her bushy eyebrows, matronly frocks and faux pearls.
The whole situation is so disgustingly shallow it makes me - a fairly shallow person myself - want to shower and scrub myself clean.
I can admit I'm guilty of laughing at desperate wannabes - although I do draw the line at mocking the obviously crazy- in the opening stages of X Factor. I can admit that I  am guilty of (occasionally) making disparaging remarks about people's appearances but watching Susan's resigned face as she waited for her chance to sing was a humbling moment in which I regretted every bitchy catty comment I've ever made.
Clearly it's a reaction she is used to. She isn't a nubile big breasted blonde haired young one that FHM would want for their front cover and is obviously used to being judged on her less than glamourous appearance. How the audience giggled when she said she wanted to be as successful as Elaine Paige. How quickly they were silenced when she started to sing.
And why should we laugh? What makes the dreams of a middle aged woman any less significant than that of a lithe teenage girl sexily writhing around the stage. She wants to be a professional singer. How ridiculous.

Susan is one of the lucky ones. She has the voice to silence those who'd laugh at her. Many women - and men - do not. 
Even now - after Susan has sung and turned the tables on every doubter who chuckled as she waited for her turn in the spotlight - the focus remains on how she looks.
Consultants are telling her to stay true to herself and avoid a makeover. The very critics who would most likely tell a teenage girl to lose three stone and dye their hair if they want to get to get ahead in the showbiz world have recognised in Susan an ,as yet, untapped market that they can make money out of. The notion that unattractive people can make money in the glossy world of showbiz is so crazy, it might just work.

There's always a market for selling dreams, now more than ever.

What could possibly be more uplifting and inspiring than watching the unemployed ugly duckling take on the world and make millions without the help of a makeover. Susan makes us all feel better about ourselves because, if she can, anyone can.

This time last week money men and marketing managers couldn't have cared less about Susan the spinster who lives alone with her cat.

Now the dodgy hair and double chins that gave everyone such a good laugh have them laughing all the way to the bank.

Laughter IS the best medicine

So I tried something new at the weekend - as per my new year resolution.

I went to a comedy club which I know isn't exactly the world's most adventurous activity but I've never done it before.

I loved it and hated it in equal measures.

The acts were - bar one - very funny but I spent so much time terrified I'd be picked on by the comedians I couldn't relax properly.

I don't know why I was so worried, I was hardly sitting in the firing line, but I felt such sympathy for those who were unwittingly used as part of the act, I couldn't relax properly until it was all over.

Ming you it was a minor price to pay for a good night.

The best thing about it was that everyone was there to have a laugh and leave the big R word at the door.

You know yourself that even if you're out for a good night in the pub the chat will inevitably at some point turn to the current economic climate which - although it's topical and affects everyone - is a bit of a downer when all you want is a bit of escapism.

The set up of a comedy club means there isn't really a chance for chat until the acts are all over by which point everyone has had a few drinks, is relaxed and has something to discuss (such as the mortifying experience of the couple in the front who were teased about their sex life ) other than the bad news we hear all week long in the news.

I think I'll be going back and I'll be bringing my more miserable friends with me - who knows, next time I may even pluck up the courage to move from the back and sit in the middle rows.

Money makes the world go round

I know I said I was going to stay upbeat and positive for the new year but it's not easy.

It feels like none of us should be happy as long as the recession continues and let's face it, the situation is not going to change overnight so we may as well try to grin and bear it.

What bothers me the most is the way everyone seems to be watching how much money everyone else has.

In my office ,at least, no one is able to turn up in a new top or talk about going on holidays without the inevitable whisperings of - 'How on earth can they afford that.'

Because we've all gotten so used to getting loans hand over fist the last few years, it's appeared that we've all been able to enjoy the same standard of living.

The fact of the matter is some people will have to tighten their belts more than others because they racked up bigger loans. Get over it.

If I want to buy a new phone or go away I don't think I should be made feel guilty about it.

I know everyone is panicking and worried about their job security but being bitter towards other people isn't the answer.

Anyway if everyone stays out of the shops the knock on effect will be even more job losses.

So instead of bitching about those with a bit of spare cash, I think we should give them a break and thank God at least someone is putting their money back into the economy.

Taking the piss

Women around the country are probably going to slate me for this but I've come to the conclusion that Ireland is home to a lot of dirty girls.

And before you guys get excited - I don't mean that in a kinky way.

I'm one of those people no one wants to go on a long drive with. I drink a lot of water and don't have a very strong bladder. This means I need loo stops at least once an hour and spend most of the time between toilets complaining that I need to pee.

The end result is I spend a lot of time in pub toilets, filling station toilets, McDonald toilets, Supermac toilets - you get the idea. One of my first lessons on moving to Dublin was to locate all the good toilets in town so I'm never caught short when shopping. Can I just take a moment here to recommend Marks and Spencers - very impressive, they don't skimp on the toilet paper.

But here's the thing I just cannot get my head around.

Why oh why oh why are there women who don't clean up after themselves?

I know hovering over the toilet bowl can result in the odd spillage onto the seat but clean it up! Its a very simple process, get some toilet paper and wipe.

There is nothing more rotten that going into a toilet cubicle to find the toilet covered with someone else's urine.

And it happens all the time. And it happens everywhere, its not just nightclub toilets or in public places. Its in work, in the gym, everywhere.

In fact its a rare day to find a toilet that isn't dirty.I constantly find myself cleaning up after other people before I leave so no one thinks I'm the minger who caused the mess.

And if I find it disgusting, let's just spare a thought for the poor cleaner who has to wipe those seats dozens of times a day only for another person with poor toilet hygiene and bad manners to come along and destroy it again.

I'm not saying all women leave their homes with their nice clean bathrooms and fail to keep their pristine standards once they've shut the front door but from where I'm standing the majority of women don't seem that bothered about cleanliness so long they don't have to get out the toilet duck and scrub.

So come on ladies. Let's raise the bar. Keep it clean - please.

Jade Goody

There are two sides to the Jade Goody argument.

One is that the ever increasing coverage of her fight against cancer raises awareness of the disease and allows her to make sure her sons are looked after financially once she dies.

The other is that it's distasteful and crude to charter her journey to death.

At the risk of being boring and sitting on the fence - I'm neither one nor the other.

I have read the tabloid exclusives - when Jade shaved her head, when Jade learnt she'd weeks left to live and how she broke the news to her eldest child.

I don't go out of my way to read these articles but they are unavoidable, not least because a team of highly trained pr managers are drip feeding the details to a hungry public.

What I do fail to understand is where this appetite for information is coming from.

Jade Goody, who I'm sure is a lovely woman , has nonetheless done nothing to contribute to society.She is ,by her own admission,ignorant.

Her profile is strong, not because she forged a successful life as a TV star, but because controversy has followed her every appearance.

On paper Jade's life is not one of great excitement or interest. The majority of her press inches - and there have been many- have been written to make a mockery of her. She's an easy target who's weathered several headlines calling her, among other things, a fat pig and a racist.

The news of her cancer was broken to her while she appeared on an Indian version of Big Brother in which she was taking part to make amends for having sparked an international fallout in 2007, following the now infamous race row when she cleverly nicknamed Shilpa Shetty - Shilpa Poppadom.

She's a young woman who's managed to made money by allowing herself to become a puppet for Max Clifford and the press.

Every moment of Jade's life has been free to the highest bidder since she appeared in on Big Brother in 2002 - including these, the very last moments of her life.

But let's be honest here - this coverage isn't about raising cancer awareness or fund raising for other sufferers.

And for all of us who pick up a paper to see the latest picture of a dying woman, we're not doing it to boost the coffers for her children.

We're doing it out of a morbid fascination and obsession with other people. A fascination that is fed every day by paparazzi photographers grabbing candid shots of people we don't know. A fascination that is fed by people like Jade who live their lives in a goldfish bowl because it pays, who allow the rest of us to feel better about ourselves because their gaffes are videoed and edited and replayed over and over and over again highlighting their lack of book learning and social awareness. People like Jade allow us to feel smug about our own lives.

We may not make as much money as Jade but we certainly aren't as openly uneducated and ill informed as she is. We would never be so crass as to put our kids on magazines or appear at the opening of an envelope- would we?

We can cluck sympathetically around the water coolers as much as we like but the reality is Jade Goody would be nothing more than a figure to poke fun at if she didn't have cancer.

It says a lot about human nature that it takes the certain death of a woman to elevate her from a joke to the position of person in the press.

And that's what she is. Not a fat pig but a real person with feelings and a heart and a family,  who is after all only trying to do the best with what she was given.
Jade is a young woman who should have years with her babies. Her death is a tragedy.

When she's gone her funeral will undoubtedly attract cameras and celebrities but in two years time will people even remember what she died from? I doubt it - another tragedy.

We live in a disposable society. It's likely that Jade's death will in some way save her from the scrap heap of z list celebrities.

That too is a tragedy.

Valentines Special

John and I don't really go in for a big show on Valentine's day.
It's something we both agreed on so I never expect to wake up to roses.
There's still no excuse for forgetting about it altogether.
All it takes is a card to show you made the effort.
However John seems to have a complete blind spot on this point. Even though I always get him something small he never bothers doing the same and when questioned about it just says - " I thought we weren't doing anything."
So here's my warning to all the men out there who think they aren't doing anything for Valentine's day - forget the card at your peril.
There are two days to go and I'm wondering should I drop a hint to let John know I'll be deeply unimpressed if I'm left empty handed - again.
Or should I leave him to his own devices and see if he remembers.
If he does remember to get a card without being prompted it'd mean a lot more but if I leave him alone and don't get anything, I will not be impressed.

Work it out

What is the deal with girls wearing make up in the gym?
It's something I'm noticing more and more and I can't figure it out.
Is the gym a pick up place?
I'm always purple in the face by the time I finish exercising.
As you can imagine it's not very attractive, so I'd never think of trying to impress someone in the gym.
I do remember reading once that supermarkets were a great place to meet guys.
Has that venue changed to the gym for the noughties?
Mind you I think there's a far better chance of catching a man's eye in the weights room.
I never see that many guys checking out the special offers in Tesco's.

On the dry

On Saturday I decided to break with my usual January tradition - which is to stay in every weekend between new year's and pay day drinking a bottle of wine in front of the telly - and go out on the town instead.

However - taking into account my poor financial situation - I stayed on the dry and spent the night sipping 7-up.

I don't know if it reflects badly on me or my friends but I have to confess I didn't really enjoy it.

The night started grand, the usual chit chat around the pub table and catching up on gossip but the more the drinks flowed and the more repetitive the conversation became, the more I wanted to leave.

It was only half ten though so I made myself stay till after midnight - a period of time that felt like forever.

Now don't get me wrong. I know when I'm drinking I'm exactly the same as my friends. My face gets flushed and I tell everyone about my bitch boss Amanda over and over and over again. Then I start talking about John. Then I start talking about travelling. I'm very predictable.

But my God is it tedious to watch everyone else do the same thing without a few drinks on me. Stories really stop getting interesting after the third telling.

My friends are great sober - and drunk - but mixing my sober self with their drunk selves isn't an experiment I'd be keen on repeating.

Having said that it did get me out of the house which means I'm not suffering from cabin fever after yet another weekend sat in watching Ryan Tubridy and going to bed early.

Pay day is another week off so I'm already trying to think of non alcohol related activities for next weekend.

One of my friends wants to go hiking - I'm not sure if I'm ready for such clean living - but I am meant to be embracing all things new so we'll see.

In the meantime, I'm going out to buy a cookbook. I spent all of Sunday afternoon watching Come Dine with Me.

I'm convinced there's a domestic goddess is lying dormant in me and now is her time to shine.


Back to basics

I have many problems with public transport but the biggest one is the public.

I could just about cope with overcrowded trains and buses if everyone on them had the same basic level of hygiene.

But have you noticed there's always someone who doesn't believe in deodorant, toothpaste or shampoo?

I had to get a dart recently. It was after work so there were dozens of tired commuters scrambling for seats.

Having spotted three empty seats when the train drew in I raced onto the carriage.



The occupant in the fourth seat stank of b. o. As exhausted as I was and as swollen as my feet were in high heels I couldn't stomach a journey sitting close to him. Not even an open window could shift the stink.

Instead I forced my aching feet to stand at the other end of the carriage where for the next half hour I watched more and more people repeat my mistake.

In a busy rush hour, in a carriage where people were standing shoulder to shoulder, three seats remained empty all the way between Pearse Street and Dun Laoghaire.

Maybe it's a defence mechanism. Perhaps these people are being clever, choosing not to wash so they always get the good seats and no one will crowd them.

It's not just body odour that's an issue. The most common problem I've found on buses and trains is unwashed hair. There's generally someone - and it's usually a guy - scratching a greasy head.

Even if you have over active glands or whatever it is that makes you smelly, wouldn't that be sorted by a daily encounter with soap and water?

I say it's time to give bus drivers and ticket inspectors more power. If the smelly culprits were refused permission to travel, they'd learn to shower quick enough.

Then the rest of us could have their seats!

Happy New Niamh

Now that I've remembered I can use my hands for something other than shovelling food into my mouth I've decided to write some new year resolutions.

I can admit that in the past I have been guilty of failing to stick to chosen resolutions. I promised myself I'd learn to salsa and try a skydive in 2008.... some day.

But this year things are going to be different. The winds of change are sweeping through my life.

If you'll remember part of the reason I was reluctant to move in with my boyfriend John last year was because I felt I hadn't done enough in my own life and I shouldn't be settling down just yet.

Well, that's all going to change in 2009. I'm going to shake things up and find out if I'm happy to continue with the status quo or if I should just be brave and break out.

I am going to try at least one new thing a month. It doesn't have to be major, it could be something really simple like having a new drink or eating something unusual like sushi. I know nibbling on sushi isn't exactly an earth shattering achievement for most but it'd be a big step for me. Raw fish does not a dinner make.

But back to the point. If, after six to eight months of these activities, I still feel like I'm drifting along without purpose, then it's back to the Big Life Plan which means buying a backpack and heading overseas. My friend Lorraine* is talking about going to Australia next Summer and unless I manage to shake up my life - I'm going to go with her.

I still have to tell John this but I'm hoping he'll be ok with it. In fact if he wanted to come that'd be even better.

It may sound selfish but I don't think I'll ever find a better time in my life to do this. I'm not married, I don't have children and while I don't hate my job it doesn't make me jump for joy every day.I'm just coasting along and I know if I don't do something about that I'll drift through life and find myself forty with kids and still annoyed that I haven't broken out of my cozy little existence. That's not fair to anyone - especially John.

Now it could be I find that getting off my ass and being pro active is all it takes to change my perspective which would be great because frankly hip hop lessons will cost a hell of a lot less than my air fare down under.

Which brings me conveniently to my next point. If someone in their early twenties* were to wear baggy pants to a street dancing class designed for teenagers  - would they look down with the kids or like a disco granny?

* May not be her real name.
* May be in her late twenties.