Monday, 24 October 2016

Basic eight

1. There was a woman in the background on Antiques Roadshow (what, shut up, I love Antiques Roadshow and so do plenty of people who are under 75) last night with a large cockatoo on her shoulder. No one was even giving her a second look. We decided whilst watching that a Tumblr (Tumblr, so 2010, sorry, whatever people do instead of Tumblrs now) of “People of Antiques Roadshow” would be amazing, but of course cannot be arsed to do any such thing. Also, a lot of the experts on Antiques Roadshow are starting to look awfully young to me. This is clearly an even worse sign than policemen looking young. "But you're really in trouble when the Antiques Roadshow punters start looking young to you," noted my spouse, which is undeniable.

2. Further evidence of decrepitude: M suggested I buy some H and M* trousers (referred to in H and M Belgique’s online store as “pantalon large” which pretty much covers it) and I did because she Knows and they are indeed wonderful but the problem is they have an elasticated waist and are ethereally comfortable and now I fear my style decline has entered its terminal velocity phase. I mean, things were bad before the elasticated waist. It’s going to be novelty cat printed leggings and padded waistcoats soon. I own three pairs of slippers. I also got sent a leaflet on estate planning today (HA HA HA I hope you enjoy your carefully planned legacy of moth-eaten cashmere jumpers and mugs, boys), so I might as well just start preparing for my imminent badly dressed death, apparently.

3. The elasticated waist is going to be handy anyway, because my sister has got me hooked on some expensive white chocolate she found in the posh (if hopelessly chaotic) new chocolate shop round the corner. I know, white chocolate, disgusting, but this stuff is bloody amazing, and I'm in deep. It's almost as bad as my Galak addiction of 1996, which was a dark, dark period. It's this stuff:

 I'm sharing it because I don't see why I should be the only filthy white chocolate junkie around here. Join in! You have nothing to lose but your teeth and credit rating; nothing to gain but more chins.

4. I am listening to David Szalay’s All That Man Is on my dog accompanied staggers around the back streets of Belgium and it is brilliant and brilliantly read but has turned me into a raging misandrist. MEN! UGH! WHY ARE YOU SO TERRIBLE? My entirely male family keep getting dirty looks that are really intended for the protagonists and I frequently retire to the basement to fold stuff darkly and mutter about The State of Man. In better news, Uccle gets a tiny mention which was pleasing to me.

5. One of my children (if I say this, I don’t violate their privacy, yes?), has had a mole removed from between his toes due to our family history of skin cancer (not on my side, we the pale, underground people of the north lands fear and flee the fiery ball) but having something removed from between your toes makes for TRICKY healing and the keeping on of dressings, it turns out. We have been struggling, in the period before his next check up, to try and get anything to stay on there and the pharmacists, unusually for francophone pharmacists, are not much help and have offered me much shrugging. I’m on my sixth variety of plaster/bandage/gauze. It’s a shame he isn’t an animal really, because with my intensive study of Yorkshire Vet, I’m pretty sure I could have sorted him out in no time *places child in calving jack* *sprays entire leg purple* wears waterproof trousers* *tries to remember not to do any castration*

6. Someone commenting on a previous post drew my attention to the most exquisitely satisfying hamster eating jelly, so I post it here for wider sharing and appreciation.

7. Less universally pleasing, but did you watch that video of a huntsman sp*der dragging a mouse up a fridge? It is AMAZING (not if you hate sp*ders, obviously). Are you more mouse today or more sp*der? I am 100% mouse, but with sp*der aspirations. I have spent the day comparing stuff to dragging a mouse up a fridge. Bandaging a male teenage toe crack = like dragging a mouse up a fridge. Maths problems involving Pythagorus and stuff like "rectiligne", "on dispose d'un cric de voiture lozange" and "simplifier des radicaux par décomposition du radicand" = MOUSE FRIDGE.

8. Photo that is insufficiently pretty for Instagram of the day:

AT LAST. Out of shot: vast martini. Main food groups are now: white chocolate, pasta gratin, game-based pâtés and custard. It's not even that cold, but I might as well make full use of this elasticated waist, I figure.


30% Oddly peaceful without Twitter rage/envy/reflexive clicking/self-loathing, but
30% Bored and lonely
20% Leftover wine
10% Maths homework hell (not unrelated to wine, above)
10% Delighted to realise Paris is Burning is on YouTube.

You? Has your day been like dragging a mouse up a fridge? Or have you been a triumphant arachnid?

(*why does Blogger hate the ampersand so? Does it not know how often I need to discuss Marks et Spencer??)

Wednesday, 19 October 2016


The Yorkshire Vet

Last night was not a vintage episode, though my beloved was pleasingly repelled by some lingering and frequently repeated shots of a tumour the size of a melon being removed from a dog's head, and of a cow having a small rubber tyre which had grown into its skin taken off its leg. The children left before it started, revolted at the mere idea.

The full rundown:

- Cow ankle/tyre removal
- Melon tumour labrador (good outcome, but looked like it was wearing a fur-coated bowler hat)
- Basset hound puppies (too small and slimy to be cute)
- The demise of Spitfire the cat and arrival of his replacement
- Amputation of wing of Squeaky the black swan

HOWEVER, it was excellent in at least one respect because it introduced as a minor character (= new mate for Squeaky) a swan called John. John the Swan. John. The. Swan. "I bought him from a man in Sutton," said John's owner, who had constructed a sort of temporary paddock for them while Squeaky recuperated, including a paddling pool and parasol. "His mate had been killed by an otter."

SO MANY QUESTIONS. Next week, the return of the priapic alpacas (yes, good name for an indie band).

For fuck's sake Marks et Spencer, knock it off

I think they were already doing this atrocity last year, but I don't think it reached Belgium. Clearly the product development team were not ferociously beaten enough over the summer if they feel it appropriate to bring them out again.


Even prosecco and berry crisps might be better than my gastronomic experience this morning, where I absent-mindedly picked up a crumb from the table with the tip of my finger and put it in my mouth, then, startled by its crunchiness and unusual flavour, took it out again to see that I was in fact eating a small insect. I must say it wasn't actively disgusting, just... unexpected. Perhaps I am in fact more apocalypse ready than I hitherto realised?

Waffle Maths

Try on something expensive and don't buy it = a saving of €125, justifying purchase of 5 bars of expensive chocolate and a pair of H&M trousers (on M's infallible recommendation, thus deduct 50% of purchase price). Even so, given my only "work product" today has been 3 40 word listings, this is not sustainable. I am going to have to think about and then decide not to buy LOADS of other expensive stuff to sort out my finances.


35% No apple turnovers in Marks et Spencer sadness
30% Damp socks and bad umbrella
20% Less bad tempered than I was this morning (not saying much)
15% Wishing I were here. Cocktails and skinks for all!


Tuesday, 18 October 2016



I have made L change my Twitter password for a month. I have been feeling for a while as if I am a total, grotesque, failure at everything - writing, pitching, parenting, admin, sistering, friending, all the things and I thought that perhaps social media was not helping with these feelingzez. Also, I feel like it might be salutary to remember what the inside of my head was like before I had a constant stream of inadequacy feeling triggers, amusing animal videos, endlessly repeated news, self-promotion, minor irritations, major irritations and sponsored posts for Belgian consultancy "tools" (tools is right) in front of my eyes. I don't necessarily think it was better before, but I feel so dim and woolly-headed, something had to change and this was all I could think of.

The rules: I am not replacing it with Facebook because (a) I loathe Facebook and (b) I don't actually remember my password but I am not trying to quit Instagram because I love pictures of other people's dinner and I can't actually waste anywhere near as much time on there, as far as I can elicit.
L has probably already lost and/or forgotten the password he put in. I am definitely too proud to beg him for it before my month is up. I think. I suppose I will find out.

Possibly this may mean more posting here, of a trivial sort. Let us see. I will update you periodically on my feelings on this Twitterless world, because I am emotionally incontinent and apparently think you will find this interesting, based on no evidence whatsoever.



Nope (and no to your unnecessary italics). 


Very much no.


F: This is my idea of a great restaurant. It makes Yorkshire pubs look positively American.

E: I would like approximately 89% of my interactions to be conducted in this admirable, humane fashion.



My magnesium has arrived! Jesus, it tastes bad. I have to psych myself up for an hour before I can take it, and I have to have a glass of something else to hand to take the taste away instantly. Surely anything that tastes this disgusting must be doing me good. I have been taking it for a week so far and I would say my mood post-magnesium has been set at: light fatalism. A sort of shrug, really, possibly accompanied by a light puffing out of the cheeks. I will take this: it is better than gnawing self-loathing or paralysing anxiety. My joints still hurt, I think I need some other snake oil for them.

Bizarre Scenes on Minchinhampton Common

I would probably have posted this link, sent to me by regular correspondent Alan, on Twitter, so here it is for you instead. I suppose I shouldn't approve, but it does sound fun. The Nissan Micra is a nice touch.


Of course one must not talk of one's teenager offspring. Of course. I fully subscribe to that. They have it hard enough with their cyberbullying and porn addictions and future of bottomless debt and ecological catastrophe without their parents talking about them on the Internet. But let me just express a, what, a wistfulness, perhaps? that one cannot. One's real life friends are pretty sick of the topic. I suppose this is what Mumsnet is for, but I just can't. There's nothing terrible happening, by the way, just the usual constant sense that I am doing it all wrong.

Things that make me feel bad currently: 

- Reading about Zadie Smith in all her exquisite brilliance.
- Forgetting to buy printer cartridges for the 80000th time.
- Getting an irregular imperfect wrong in Dutch class and being corrected UGH THE BURNING SHAME RELIVE IT RELIVE IT ALL NIGHT LIEP LIEP LIEP.
- That stultifying feeling I  get when I go out for a walk and it's always the same sodding streets and the same slightly mad small man walking around at the same time but in the opposite direction as me, making me wonder if I look as crazed as he does.
- Leaving the washing wet in the machine until it gets mildewy and gross.
- The woman who moved in disgust when I ate my lunch sitting next to her on the train recently, who looked like the kind of hippy who wouldn't care about that, which made it worse.
- Not knowing what to get my dad for his birthday.
- Being overly, unhealthily, invested in my children's academic results.
- Having dirty fingernails
- Realising the Roomba has been stuck under the sofa for 2 months and anthropomorphising it to such a degree I get quite tearful.
- Obviously also the world, etc. but I do not feel personally responsible for that, quite so much.

Things that make me feel good currently:

- The mere existence of Vanilla Ice on Ice.
- The Yorkshire Vet (tonight!)
- Having enough paper handkerchiefs and envelopes and stamps in the house.
- Crows and chickens facing off in the back yard.
- Small, undemanding tasks.
- Making scones.
- Watching the dog sleep.
- Oh hai

- Magnesium???

A picture

Here is the dog asleep with the Measles in his mouth. The Measles is repulsive and the bin is in shot which makes this picture unsuitable for Instagram, so you can have it, lucky you.

35% Yorkshire Gold
30% Mild Gloom
20% Passive Saxophone
14,99% Self-harm via the Dominique Ansel London Instagram feed
0,01% Magnesium


Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Wednesday realness

Yorkshire Vet

As noted by commenter Lynn, the Yorkshire Vet is back! Last week I got to watch it IN YORKSHIRE, about 20 miles from Thirsk, where it is filmed, which was extra delightful. F, with whom I was on holiday looking at shrivelled saints' fingers, was in a BnB in York. She is American and had been (of course, who wouldn't be) keen to watch Julian castrating something whilst in the UK, but because there is no phone reception up in the Dales I couldn't text her to tell her to watch and was in agonies of frustration. Thankfully, as we drove into phone coverage the next morning I was delighted to be inundated by texts from her:

Whilst we were on holiday, F was reading James Herriot's son's biography of his father, so it was even more fitting (though I sort of wish she hadn't been because she kept reading me extracts about his anal fistula and now I will never be able to disassociate James Herriot and anal fistula).

Anyway, I watched last night's here, which was less atmospheric but still joyful. Things that happened:

- Julian's waterproof trousers got caught in the calving jack

- Emily the hen had to have her crop emptied of "pearl barley and rocket"

- A calf had to have its intestines put back

- A retired point-to-pointer had its teeth done

- An obese rat was put on a diet

- An elderly blind labrador ate a silicone spatula


I got a brilliant and very persuasive email about the wonders of magnesium this week. French pharmacies worship at the shrine of magnesium and I have always been curious as to what exactly it does that is so miraculous. My correspondent is sure that it will sort out my various pathetic aches and crockednesses and also described it as "the great relaxer". I mean, who doesn't want something called "the great relaxer"?? NO ONE. I have ordered some of the Special Kind recommended and am waiting for it to arrive and revolutionise my entire life. M thinks this falls into the same category as crystals and is very scornful. We shall see.

Death to the dentist (even though he is quiet and gentle and nice)

I have just returned from the dentist. 140 of my finest euros to have my tongue put to sleep, a hole drilled in my face, a visit from the hook of buccal torment and a 30 minute sandblasting with Jérémie's finest minty dust. It is a terrible way to spend a morning and also to spend €140, so I feel I should get a free pass from adulting for the remainder of the day. Instead I am accompanying my child to Chinese in the rain and am about to attempt some soup even though it is almost certainly too soon.

Look, this is my lunch, with accompanying Card of Frustration from the postman. There's linseed dust in it! I don't think my numb face is going to deal well with those spinach fronds! This is no way to live.

Is this better?

No, I didn't think so.

 Thank fuck for Bake Off night.


50% Lidocaine
40% Self-pity
10% Waiting to drink gin in cashmere bedsocks circa 6pm


Monday, 10 October 2016

Strangely chocolate themed

I'm having a very quiet day. Theoretically I should be either pitching or trying to do Proper Writing. I don't have that many days that are totally empty like this, so I should take advantage of them.  I've earned about 40p from writing this year. I can't even afford laurels to rest on. I could rest on: chicken wood shavings. Fallen leaves. Discarded child socks. That's about it.

Unfortunately the empty hours of limitless possibility are just depressing the hell out of me and I still have no ideas and the doomed fiction I have been desultorily toying with for months looks shit when I go back to it, so here I am. I have made several dental appointments, ordered a document from the DVLA and done my overdue VAT return, so there is no procrastination left to me.

Hang on, there's still the laundry! To the basement!

Ok, now I've even finished the laundry. Mmmmm, laundry. Shit. Let's do some lists.

Reasons for self-loathing

1. Bad thoughts, various.

2. Bought some of that chocolate I told myself I must never buy again because I am powerless to resist it.

3. Refused to assist late child finding missing shoe because they had spent previous half hour watching YouTube videos. Justified, perhaps, but arsehole-ish.

4. Not writing.

5. No ideas.

6. €500 overdrawn, but have randomly ordered 6 bars of chocolate on the Internet today BECAUSE, OH I DON'T KNOW. Hormones, maybe.

7. Weird, quite creepy obsession with true crime podcasts. Aural rubbernecking.

8. Keep trying to give up Twitter and keep failing. It makes me feel bad, because everyone is better at everything than me and I get sad and hate them. But then I had an amusing exchange about this awful chocolate (this is NOT either of the chocolates mentioned above) and this even worse photo from the chocolate wrapper:

and that kind of thing is the reason I keep coming back even though I KNOW it's rotting my brain.

9. Continued enfattening due to perpetual desire for melted cheese and alcohol. Frustration with enfattening. Failure to do anything about it other than consume even more melted cheese.

Small pleasures

1. Picard has its winter range in at last, so I can go back to not having to think about lunch (ugh, thinking) and just rotate Picard soups.

2. Ru Paul's Drag Race s7 is now on Netflix, and no form of visual entertainment makes me happier than Drag Race. The episode I watched today had Shakespeare AND beards and the lines "I'm serving bearded gladiator gothic fierceness" and "I'm bringing emancipation proclamation realness." (drag queen dressed as Abraham Lincoln), both of which I loved so much I had to write them down.

3. It's getting colder and the colder it gets the more cheerful I (usually) become.

4. I have made scones as part of my displacement smorgasbord of activities and they are delicious.

5. The heating being on.

6. It's nearly Shit Uccle Halloween time! These guys are ready

Things I hate

1. Our new boiler which takes 20 minutes to produce a reluctant dribble of warmish water.

2. The return of saxo-neighbour.

3. Crap dog shit bags that are badly perforated and rip.

4. This fucking iphone update which has turned me into a stereotypical angry old person. What? WHAT? *stabs at phone with furious finger*

5. Skiing. This is not new or relevant, I've just bunged it in. Though apparently we are going at Christmas so jolly fucking great, time to spend a hundred million euros, break a limb and get repeated static electric shocks whilst freezing cold.

6. My defective aching hips. I walk like Mrs Overall.

7. Chocolate that tells you what to do.

8. Spot on my cheek.

9. Being stalked around the internet daily by an extremely unsexy pair of men's slippers I once had the misfortune to look at and a t-shirt my son bought months ago.

Things I don't hate

1. My friends, who are very good at the sharing of various forms of mid-life gloom/despair/anger in amusing and consolatory ways.

2. Melted cheese.

Oh good, I have managed to idle away all my available time now and the children will be arriving to criticise my many chins, ask for money and generally be surly and insolent. Hurrah!

I hope your Monday has been less ridiculous than mine. What do you hate/not hate? Do you have reasons for self-loathing or tiny pleasures you wish to share with the group?

Friday, 7 October 2016


What I find is really excellent is to write a long, impassioned piece about your great love of blogging and your determination not to give up on this precious, endangered medium and then to just give the fuck up for weeks on end.


Some things that have happened:

1. My neck gave up.  

I did not know this was how the ageing process went. One minute I had the more or less serviceable neck of a woman in early middle age, the next I had the sagging wattle of a geriatric domestic fowl. Sic transit etc. I wonder if 41 years of functional dehydration have finally caught up with me? I'm not drinking more water even if that IS the case. Rather, I am taking it as a sign that I can settle into proper middle aged drinking (= stiff gin every evening), continue to dress like a dog breeder and shout at young people on the tram. I might as well embrace it.

2. I went relic hunting with my internet friend F in Paris.

(No, we did not rob Kim Kardashian)

Oh GOD, we had such fun. We saw: many femurs, innumerable fragments of the true cross, a fragment of Christ's umbilical cord, St Innocent's teeth, a reliquary in the shape of a foot (whether it contained a foot was uncertain), 2 whole incorrupt saints (wax coated) and some parts of St Helena all trussed up like a parma ham.


We missed out on the incorrupt heart of St Vincent de Paul (chapel too busy with pilgrims) and, in Yorkshire, the hand of St Margaret Clitherow (we went to Yorkshire too), but there is always next time. We'll Always Have Relics. A friend who shares your love of shrivelled saint digits is a precious thing indeed.

The woman cleaning our Airbnb was obsessed with telling me about a previous guest who had left an apple behind the front door. This was apparently the most depraved thing she had ever seen. "A whole apple. Not a core. I rang my boss and I told him, 'I hope you're sitting down', then I told him the whole story." It was very puzzling. I hope we did not leave any accidental fruit behind.

Also on a produce theme, Paris seemed to be obsessed with municipal plantings of kale and chard. What is that all about?

This, whilst not a relic, also pleased me:

Definitely if I were choosing a shop sign for my bun shop it would be one featuring my massive hand buboe.

I am now missing Paris and North Yorkshire with equal fervour, which is puzzling and difficult. Also, I am doing that obnoxious thing where you get home after a reasonably extended absence and people have moved things and done things and you bustle around tutting and narrowing your eyes, in the manner of a dog territorially pissing on a lamppost. I hate myself for it, but apparently cannot stop.

3. I have updated the reading page for September.

Not the most memorable month, much soporific Icelandic crime.

4. The St Gilles penis

Followed by the St Catherine arsehole. Ah, Belgium.

5. I got chatted up at the station.

By a (strange, elderly, probably mad) man who said "do you have lots of brothers, because you have very masculine taste." For some reason (#thepatriarchy) I found this absurdly flattering.

6. Accidentally attended Richard III's birthday celebrations at Middleham Castle. 

Man, those people are crazy. A lot of them were wearing Richard III sweatshirts and they had scattered white roses all over the castle and were standing around being vehement about his innocence and general good chap-itude. There was Richard III cheese and a weary looking dog wearing Richard III's coat of arms.

7. Dutch class blues

I was forced to go up a level and now I don't really understand anything and am desperately scrabbling to catch up after missing two classes due to my relics jolly. Also, the new teacher thinks Brexit is hilarious, which is getting a bit old, and we are learning the conditional tense through the medium of sport, which is unspeakably sordid. The class is in a new building which is further away and has no functioning drinks machine and I am generally not bathed in positive feelings about the whole endeavour, but too listless and inert to do anything about it. However, I do have an excellent new Dutch word: rompslomp, meaning hassle.


20% Shaping up for double pizza today, like the disgusting beast I am.
20% Must pitch. Have been asked to pitch. Have no ideas. Head like an empty Greggs bag, with only a few crumbs of puff pastry inside, rolling uselessly down the street.
20% Too much good TV to watch. Ru Paul! Transparent! Bake Off! Hunted! Other stuff!
20% Surly administrative avoidance - screw you, inbox.
20% Wondering if I could get a fragrance that would be "Betty's York, 9am, c.1987"