Self Reflection during Lockdown

The journey into self-love and self-acceptance must begin with self-examination. Until you take the journey of self-reflection, it is almost impossible to grow or learn in life.

Iyanla Vanzant

We’ve been on Lockdown for 3786 days now. (Possibly an exaggeration) If you believe social media then the population has turned into master bakers, gym bunnies and Tik Tok stars.

I on the other hand will be coming out the other side pretty much the same as I went in.

I’ll probably blame the fact that I’ve four kids and a pregnant girlfriend. Between them there isn’t much time for learning new skills or improving existing ones.

Truth be told. The kids wouldn’t eat fancy homemade breads. Besides a slight rounding of the tummy and getting out of breath climbing the stairs for the five hundredth time, I’m quite content with the physical state I’m in.

As for Tik Tok. Daddy Poppins tells me I’m too old for it. I tried but frankly got bored after 3 days and deleted it.

So what have I achieved during this enforced time at home with the kids and girlfriend?

Have I spent my spare hours gazing into the deep recesses of my soul and fighting demons?

Have I my hole. I’ve farted about on Twitter and messed about with Lightroom, (you can see some of this on my Instagram)

I like to think I know myself pretty well. The problem you see isn’t not knowing why I think and act the way I do. It’s why I cannot think and act another way.

I’ll give you an example.

As a kid I loved sports. All sports. When by mutual consent I left the private school in Oxford and my parents were looking at prospective boarding schools. They would return from school visits and my only questions related to sports facilities.

When playing sports I’d give 110 % and hated losing. But, be it a team or individual sport I never had that extra bit of determination and drive to become anything other than an ok competitior.

Like most people interested in Sports that grew up in the 90’s I’ve been glued to The Last Dance on Netflix. I’ve also read many articles generated around the documentary. Lots of them have caused me to consider how we view sports stars / celebrities. I’ll save those thoughts for another day!

What struck me the most during the documentary was how single minded Jordan was about winning. How he could take the smallest perceived slight and turn it into the motivation to destroy his opponents on the court.

I would say I’m too nice for that. But is that true? Like many adopted children I’m a people pleaser. Often doing things I don’t want to for fear of upsetting someone by saying no. Not because I’m a fledging Mother Teresa!

So the ability to go out there destroy someone else on the sports field because they received an award I thought I was due would be like a vegan eating bacon!

Like a vegan, who isn’t going to eat bacon, to get a job they desire. I’m not going to change.

So you see I’m no stranger to self reflection. It’s all well and good knowing who we are and why we are the way we are. When making changes conflicts a deep rooted behaviour it sort of seems pointless.

So while you may be spending this time self reflecting I’ll be on Twitter having the craic and avoiding doing the laundry.

A Shot In The Butt

The Summer of 2002 is one I’ll never forget. I worked as a holiday rep on the Greek island of Corfu.

There are many tales from that eventful Summer. Getting stranded in Kavos, having my phone stolen, nearly getting caught skinny dipping in a hotel pool, to name a few.

The most memorable of all has to be my run in with Goofy. An English Pointer belonging to one of the bar owners sons.

I was the rep for a resort called Ipsos. It was perfect for me. There was a mix of travellers. Groups of young girls and guys, families and couples of all ages.

This particular week there were quite a few younger holidaymakers so I arranged a pub crawl. Each bar we visited would give us a free shot and we’d end up at the nightclub.

It was a great night. There was Karaoke, pole dancing and the craic was had by all. When the nightclub closed at 5am. Some of the guests and myself walked back up the strip together.

At the very top of the strip is the Borghese Pension. A 24 hour bar with a B&B above it. Run by Renna and her son’s, it was one of my properties.

Renna came running out. Visibly distressed and shouting. “The boy in number five, he stole beer”

After a few minutes I managed to ascertain what had happened. The young lad staying in room five had been caught stealing a crate of Heineken.

Upon being disturbed he’d dropped the crate and legged it. Renna asked me to keep an eye on the bar whilst she went to get one of her son’s up.

I told the guests to head to their accomodation and I’d see them later. I then strolled behind the bar.

I noticed Goofy lying down asleep so I went over to him.

Now I learned later there are a few things Goofy doesn’t like. Being approached from behind, being woken up and someone saying Goofy, Goofy, Goofy into his ears.

Drunken me got the full house in one go. I approached him from behind and woke him by saying “Goofy, Goofy, Goofy into his ears. He wasn’t impressed and promptly bit my face.

The copious amounts of Ouzo I’d consumed that night had the effect of numbing any pain. More from instinct I put my hand to my eyebrow and when I removed it saw blood.

I walked out to the toilets and looked in the mirror. I saw a thick line of blood running down my nose from my eyebrow. I grabbed some toilet paper and pressed it on.

Back behind the bar, toilet paper held to the cut I made a coffee and sat down. Moments later Renna appeared. Unbeknownst to me, the toilet paper was soaked in blood.

“What happened?”

“Goofy bit me” I replied.

She shouted something at Goofy. Who knowing he was in trouble disappeared not to be seen for three days!

She took the toilet paper away, gasped and told me not to move. She then disappeared again.

She reappeared much quicker this time with Mario in tow. Renna has four sons. Mario is the runt of the litter. Alex, George and Costas are your typical Greek Adonis type. Tall, dark and handsome. Mario god bless him was short and stout.

He wasn’t doing much to improve his appearance this morning. Sporting just his boxers and bed head.

Renna told me he would take me to the Doctor. He disappeared. I assumed to get dressed and freshen up.

I assumed right. Though this meant putting on shorts and flip flops. We hopped into his father’s little Fiat and sped of to the local Doctor.

Upon arrival he told me to take a seat and went over to the receptionist. They spoke in Greek for a few minutes. The receptionist laughed.

Mario had either cracked a joke or she was laughing at the stupid Englishman who’d been bitten by a dog.

I wasn’t waiting long and before I knew it my eye had been stitched and the Doctor was handing me a piece of paper.

“You get these and come back”

I obviously looked confused so he spoke to Mario in Greek. Mario then told me it was medicine and I had to return to get the stitches out.

Back to the bar we went.

Mario and Renna jabbered away and then Renna took the prescription out of my hand saying she would get them for me.

Renna returned with the medicine and handed me the bag. Inside was a box of tablets and a small bottle of liquid.

“The syringe!” She exclaimed, slapping her forehand. I looked puzzled and was more interested in asking how often I should take the tablets.

“Follow me” she said and headed off to the restaurant next door that her in law’s ran. I hovered outside the sitting room while she spoke to her Mother in law. She then turned to me and said “Go in. She has a syringe”

The old Greek woman took the bag of medicine from me and took out the bottle of liquid. She put it on the table and disappeared.

She wasn’t gone long. When she returned she was holding a syringe, a bottle of liquid and some cotton balls. She took the syringe and filled it with the liquid Renna had gotten from the Pharmacy.

She put this on the coffee table and told me to pull down my shorts. Now, many of you more sensible people would probably ask “Why?” Not me. An 80 year old Greek woman I’ve only just met tells me to drop my trousers. I do just that.

“Your pants too.” She says. Again no questions from me I pull my pants down. She meanwhile is putting the liquid from her bottle onto a cotton ball. She tells me to turn around and wipes my buttcheek with it.

She then starts to fumble on the coffee table and I realise she is looking for the syringe. Now her glasses are as think as milk bottles and she still can’t see the syringe!

“Do the glasses not work?” I ask.

“Far away” she says. Gesturing off into the distance.

Now my drunken brain has finally realised what’s going on here. She’s about to stick this needle into my arsecheek. I’m starting to wonder if she’s going to throw it like a dart from across the room.

Anyways, I bend over. Now I’m sure there are easy ways to give an injection. This wasn’t one of them. She jammed that needle in and I swear I actually lifted off the ground.

Thankfully it was over quickly so I pulled up my boxers and jeans. Thanked her and left.

Luckily I’d planned the pub crawl for the night before my day off. Renna told me I could go sleep in a vacant room upstairs save me having to make my way home.

When I woke later that afternoon. My ass was still numb and the words of the Doctor echoed in my head.

“Get this and come back” I was supposed to go and get the tetanus medicine and go straight back to him so he could give it to me!

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Tuscan Inspired Cheese Pasta

Mrs OMG loves tagging me on Facebook in recipe posts. The idea being that I’ll make them for her.

The other day she tagged me on a post from Cafe Delites for a Tuscan Chicken Mac and Cheese.

I had a quick watch of the video and then clicked the link to go to the site for the recipe.

As soon as I saw sun dried tomatoes I knew the kids wouldn’t eat it. We also never use macaroni pasta.

A quick scour through the cupboards and I found a tin of chopped tomatoes and we were good to go.

Ingredients

  • 2 large chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to season
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 6 cloves garlic finely diced
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 level tablespoons flour
  • 900 ml milk or half milk half water
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian herbs
  • 300g dried pasta
  • 150g baby spinach leaves
  • 100g mozzarella cheese shredded
  • 75g cup grated cheese Cheddar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley chopped

Method

The recipe called for the chicken breasts to be thinned to about an inch thick. Cooked and then kept on a hot plate covered in foil. I found this dried them out. So the next time I make it I’m going to try cubing it. Giving it a quick fry to sear the meat and then staking it out the pan and adding it back in with the pasta.

Mix the Paprika, Salt, pepper, dried parsley and 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil to a bowl and mix together.

Coat the chicken in the mix. Add the remaining olive oil to a pan and quickly fry the meat. Ensuring it’s cooked on all sides. Remove from the pan and keep in a covered dish.

Add the butter to the pan and saute the onion and garli untill the onions are translucent. Roughly two minutes, stirring frequently.

Add the tin of tomatoes and stir thoroughly.

Now add the flour and stir quickly so it is mixed through and starts to thicken.

Add the stock cube to the milk and pour into the pan. (I use half milk half water as the pasta doesn’t go as sticky) Give a good stir so that the flour is fully mixed into the liquid.

T this point you would add the Italian Herbs. As the tinned tomatoes had herbs added I left them out.

Add the pasta and chicken, stir occasionally until it starts to simmer.

Reduce heat and stir regularly for about 10 minutes until the sauce thickens,and the pasta is Al Dente.

Stir in the spinach leaves and stir. Cook for a minute or two until the leaves have all wilted.

Remove from the heat and add the cheese. Mix thoroughly.

Serve immediately and garnish with the fresh parsley.

Let me know if you try this.

5 Tips For First Time Fathers

So I became a step dad to Mrs OMG’S two boys in August 2007. Then a Dad to a son of my own in Nov 2008.

Since then we’ve added Little Miss OMG and Baba 3.0 is due in 8 weeks. Now I’m no parenting expert, truth be told you’re better of doing the opposite of what I do in most situations.

I do have plenty of experience however so I’m going to impart my top tips for new Dad’s here.

Number One

If you anticipate being asked to do something go to the toilet. This is your new safe place. If you do this right it won’t be long till you hear shouts of.

“Where’s your father?”

“Probably in the toilet, he’s always in the toilet”

Number Two

Your are now the waste disposal unit for the household. You don’t even need to bother making a dinner for yourself.

  1. You won’t have time to eat it whilst it’s hot anyway. Between cutting meat for the kids. Wiping up spills and the 400 other things that you end up doing, whilst everyone else eats.
  2. The kids will leave so much food on their plates you’ve a dinners worth between them all.

Number Three

You now own nothing. Everything you own will be commandeered by the little people you helped create.

Games console – gone are the days of first person shooters and FIFA with your mates. Instead it’s Banjo Kazooie and You Tube.

You won’t be able to get your phone out to check Twitter or Instagram as there will be shouts of Let me See. Unless you’ve perfected Number One in which case loo time is also phone time.

Number Four

You will never win the who had less sleep argument.

Even if you are the one who was up all night with the teething baby your partner still got less sleep than you.

The same goes for nappy changes, housework etc.

It’s easier to concede defeat. Though if you’ve mastered Number One you’ll have anticipated the argument and will be safely in the loo.

Number Five

Get a coffee loyalty card from every shop and garage that does one.

Coffee is your new best friend.

The temptation will be there to have a few drinks when the nippers go to sleep. Resist the urge. Kids have an inbuilt hangover detector and will be twice as bad if they sense you’ve had a few the night before.

Coffee, coffee and more coffee is the new normal.

Any chance you get to top up those caffeine levels take. Run out of milk, grab a coffee as well. Stop for petrol, grab a coffee. Have to stop for the little one to use the loo, grab a coffee.

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People Watching in Lockdown

It’s not a surprise to those that know me well, but, I’m quite enjoying this social distancing thing.

It’s made easier by the fact that the kids are holding up quite well. I’d anticipated weeks of stopping fights. Trying to find the answer to that impossible question in an argument between two testosterone fuelled teenage boys. “Who started it”

Theres not been much of it at all!

Coffee and people watching

One thing I’ve missed is the kid free coffees and people watching. I think my love affair with this started in Corfu. My role as a holiday Rep required me to be available for guests in certain places at certain times.

For most of those hours no guests would require my services. So I’d sit there with an ice cold frappe watching holiday makers and locals going about their day.

Insta Stories Provide Ample People Watching Opportunities

Today however I had my Eureka moment. You’ll be pleased to know it wasn’t in the bath and I didn’t run naked anywhere. It was, fittingly so, whilst sitting in the front yard a Dalgona coffee in hand watching the kids hoverboard up and down the road.

You can people watch from the comfort of your own home. Not in a twitching at the net curtains, spying on your neighbours sort of way.

Insta Stories Provide Ample People watching opportunity.

Before lockdown I’ll be honest Insta Stories were normally set playing in the background whilst I did something else.

A bit like when you have daytime TV on, but potter about doing the housework. Only glancing at the screen if something sounds interesting.

Away From the Picture Perfect Grids

Lately though I’ve found myself actually watching and listening to people’s stories.

It gives a fascinating insight into people’s lives. Away from the picture perfect grids, filled with beautiful images.

Perhaps deep down I always knew this, and hence, why mine are predominantly photos with a bit of text.

Hats off to those who share their lives on Insta Stories. Be it from the car, the shed or wherever they happen to be.

You see, sitting in a coffee shop watching people go by you can’t tell what is really happening. You can see the animated phone conversations. The stressed parent pleading with Little Johnny to end his sit down protest and get out to the car.

The reasons behind all these events are a mystery. We can only guess. Yet on Insta Stories we hear the stories, sometimes accompanied by video or photographic evidence.

Perhaps I’ll just invest in a decent bean to cup coffee machine and then after lockdown I can just sit in my yard. Fancy coffee in hand watching the lives of my friends on Insta Stories.

Lockdown Won’t Last Forever.

I’ve resisted writing about the whole Covid 19 thing so far. Mainly due to the fact I’ve no words of wisdom to help people get through this, and we’ve not had any amusing or funny mishaps to entertain you.

I’ve been wondering though about what happens when restrictions end. The old “normal” isn’t going to return overnight.

It can’t continue forever

Much like introverts the world over I’m revelling in many aspects of the current social distancing rules. I am fully aware that as a society it can’t continue forever, and there are some things I do miss.

I fear though, most of the good aspects will swiftly be forgotten, and fall by the wayside when the world goes back to its 900 miles per hour pace.

Checking in on the vunerable members of our communities. (How was this not happening anyway?) Not making those unnecessary journeys and causing more damage to the environment. Less time with our families as commutes and school return. Back to buying crap we don’t need because PR companies and Celebs tell us we’ll be happier if we do.

In many ways I feel it’s similar to pregnancy.

In Many Ways I Feel It’s Similar to Pregnancy

I did often wonder how women could give up cigarettes and alcohol for nine months, then the first chance they get after the birth go for a smoke and arranging a night of binge drinking.

Then it dawned on me. They aren’t voluntarily giving up. It’s enforced. The desire to not harm the baby they are carrying outweighing the nicotine craving.

So instead of enjoying the additional time at home. Not having to navigate the gridlocked roads on the daily commute. People are focusing on the day they are set free. The minute they are given the all clear, like a greyhound out of the traps they will be gone. Chasing that hare at 90 mile per hour. Eager to make up for lost time!

I’ve a Different Perspective

OK my situation is different. I was a stay at home parent and carer before the virus. I’m still a stay at home parent and carer but have now had to add teacher to the mix.

Financially we’re actually a bit better off. Quite simply because we aren’t going anywhere to spend money. The kids aren’t asking for Euros here and there for trips to the shop with their mates. No referee payments or club fees to pay. No new hurls or replacement soccer boots. Not to mention the tenner every day for school dinners for the teens.

We’ve actually managed to buy Baba 3.0 a cot, travel system and car seat without having to stress over what bill might have to wait.

So whilst I long for being able to hop in the car with Little Miss and the dog and take a stroll across the Slieve Blooms or a walk to the park with carrots for the horses when we’ve finished playing. I’m happy to not go back to all the consumerist rubbish that seems to be the normal people are itching to get back to.

Disney Plus has Launched

From a sales and marketing point of view Disney have struck gold.

Launching a streaming service when the majority of Europe’s school are shut and all but essential services told to remain closed. Certainly makes for an audience of children needing something to do and more importantly parents needing 30 minutes for a cup of hot coffee.

I’ll be honest, between Sky Go, Netflix and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate we’re at the limit. If not over on what we can afford to pay for entertainment monthly.

It might not make it to a paid subscription

A seven day free trail and five year old not used to being inside for this amount of time had me signing up straight away.

I told the boys. Big teen thought it was all Pixar Movies and Frozen, Teen 2 and Buddy just grunted. It might not make it to a paid subscription I thought to myself.

We’d done some counting, number formation and counting with Little Miss and she was due a break. Given a choice it would be The Spy Ninjas on YouTube. Being an animal lover I knew she’d like Lady and the Tramp so I stuck it on and called her in to “Look at the cute puppy”

Bingo! She sat down and was engrossed. Sheets were washed and hung on the line. Lunch was prepared and that elusive hot coffee was drunk.

Then I heard tears and rushed in to see Littlep Miss bawling her eyes out as Lady was being backed into a corner by the street dogs. That pretty much ended Disney Plus for the day.

A film called Invincible caught my eye

With everyone in bed I thought I’d have a look at what else there was. In the movies section a film called Invincible caught my eye. Reading the synopsis I remember watching it a few years ago. The finer details eluded me so I settled down and hit play.

As I watched it reminded me why so many people love sports. Wether it’s Rugby, Football/Soccer, the NFL or GAA. When times are hard those minutes at the weekend cheering your team on are an escape from the stresses that may be happening around us.

In the current Coronavirus situation I’m sure there are many who could do with that escapism right now.

Many of us had that dream of playing professional sports when we were younger.

It seems a lot longer, but less than two weeks ago I was walking out the tunnel at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium.

The Tunnel at The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium

As I walked under the Come On You Spurs sign and out into the evening sun, the hairs stood up and I felt like an 11 year old boy again. Kicking a ball around with my mates and imagining running out that very tunnel.

Invincible is the story of Vince Papale.

A part time bartender, his wife has left him and he tries out for his local NFL Team the Philadelphia Eagles. Based on a true story.

It’s probably not the greatest script, cast and story ever told. But for 90 minutes it had me. I forgot about talk of lockdowns, school closures and my parents, the kids Grandparents who are five time zones away and well past the age considered vunerable.

I laughed, I may have cried, the hairs stood up on the back of my neck and I rooted for Vince Papale like I was from South Philly. Spurs need a player or two, perhaps I should offer José my services.

It also shows that character is more important than talent.

So if you need time to do the washing, cook the dinner or need a hot cuppa and some family time.

Fire up the Disney Plus App and stick on Invincible. If there are more films like this on there it might become a permanent fixture in my house.

This is not an ad, nothing was gifted. We paid for tickets on the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Tour and have signed up to the free trail of Disney Plus.