It's Rose of Tralee week again. The island of Ireland has gone into 'lovely girls' overdrive as young, available women of Irish origin compete for the Rose crown.
It's not a beauty contest, per se, although value is placed on what lovely frocks the lovely girls wear and how they carry themselves. You won't see a fat rose grace the stage of the dome.
You won't see anything other that a beautifully groomed young woman in formal attire looking as lovely as she possibly can. and, worst of all, doing a "party piece" - to show that not only is she a lovely girl she can also do a jig or sing a song about her mother country or play a recorder.
The winning rose will of course spend a year smiling and wearing a crown and sash and doing good works.
(We'll not even get into how she needs a male escort to help make everything look above board and make sure no harm comes to her.)
If I have not made it clear enough, I detest the Rose of Tralee and all it stands for. I hate the dated, sexist, old country Irish-ism of it al.
I hate that we are fawning over it in a week when two Irish women publicly shared their trip to England to secure an abortion because they are not allowed to have one in their own country.
I hate that we went one day from being a country that raged about how terribly awfully Ireland treats women - and how it has always treated women as second class citizens who wouldn't know what to do with themselves if their lives depended on it - (Which resulted, of course, in the case of Savita Halappanavar -who died when doctors refused to terminate her doomed pregnancy, even when sepsis was setting in.) to a country that welcomed the annual pageant and even got excited about it.
Now, I'm not a total arse. I get that we can poke fun at it. I get that we can watch it with disdain and even get a laugh out of it - but we shouldn't have to.
We shouldn't want to.
If we are to really forward the cause of women in Ireland - we shouldn't be accepting the Rose of Tralee as something wholesome and intrinsically Irish and "just a bit of fun".
It's not just a bit of fun. Not when women are still fighting for their rights in this country. Not when women are still dying because they don't have autonomy over their own bodies.
Otherwise, it just becomes an international joke. A celebration of our backwardness. A public week long celebration of women as objects - as trophies who entertain with their party pieces and who look lovely in satin with their hair pinned to the top of their head - like all good girls should.
I suppose at least on Monday night we had one joyous reprieve when the Sydney Rose, called out Ireland on our attitude to reproductive health - stating it was time to repeal the eighth amendment.
I was expecting the dome to descend into silence - for tumbleweed to rattle across the stage and for poor Daithi to take a full on conniption on an epic scale.
But there was applause - and I wondered if we were finally, albeit, very slowly moving in the right direction.
Still, if the women of Ireland are to have equality, parity, respect and all we deserve, the Rose of Tralee must be allowed to wilt and die.
I bought a sideboard. An old, musty sideboard which has been lovingly up-cycled and given a new lease of life.
I bought the sideboard to go in what will become my dining room. Before now the room (the second reception room in our 50s Terrace) has been an odd mix of a playroom, a home office and a general dumping ground which I have loathed and despised from the moment we bought this house.
I have never found that room nice to be in. It was not a relaxing place to be. It was the kind of place that was frequently cluttered with piles of paperwork, stacks of books here and there and broken bits of plastic toys which no longer held any purpose and were probably a health hazard.
I'm sure behind an old toy Ikea kitchen there was probably a mouldy Wotsit from the neolithic age. I hated it. HATED it.
And it had the kind of mismatched furniture that set my teeth on edge.
So, when the mid-life-crisis hit and I decided to become a full time writer, one of my plans was to finally make this room lovely - as I will be spending more time at home than ever before.
And I bought a sideboard.
It has already given me so much joy, Not least because it reminds me of the sideboard my grandparents used to have in their house when I was a child.
In that sideboard, on the left hand side, there were all the treats the world had ever seen. Biscuits. Fancy biscuits. Biscuits my granny would dole out to us when we were visiting and looking particularly cute. Biscuits that were the precursor to the 10p that would be slipped into our hands before we left for home.
I had such warm memories of that sideboard - of that house, of the times we spent there - that when I saw what I now deem the sideboard of dreams, I knew I had to have it.
I had to have it and use it to make my home feel more homely. I have become obsessed with the idea of a formal dining room. No more TV at dinner time. No disappearing to our different parts of the house at meal times.
I have plans for family dinners, or sitting around together playing board games, and watching the kids doing their homework and, when they are being very cute, taking the biscuits out of the cupboard and offering them one.
I'll ignore the fact my children are fussy eaters. Or that the boy (12) will want to do his homework in his room. I'll ignore the fact that any biscuits in this house have to go under virtual lock and key due to biscuit eating monsters (I include myself in that group).
I'll ignore everything other than the warm feeling of nostalgia - the hopeful glow of nice family times.
Yes - a midlife crisis. A sideboard.
Things are getting strange here on Walton's Mountain.
Why Skirting the Issue?
For 14 years I wrote my Skirting the Issue column for the Derry Journal each Friday - I may have moved on, but I still have opinions!