Tuesday, 3 May 2016


Mardy Cashmere

I am worried about the moddles in the Brora catalogue which I received yesterday. For people wearing cosy, delightful Scottish cashmere they look really pained:

These are the kind of facial expressions I adopt when cornered by mad people or waiting for the dentist but trying to conceal my true emotions. I can only surmise they are worried about overheating. CHEER UP, CHAPS. You can always take the jumper off and wear it tied around your neck like a posh French teenager!

(It has been pointed out to me that mardy models are a universal phenomenon and of course this is true, but it seems at odds with Brora's jolly, cosy, Boden-esque branding. Also, they look as if they are trying to smile but some deep personal sadness is preventing them)

Dutch trolling

My Dutch teacher has it in for me, I swear. I haven't been for 4 lessons and she went round the class solicitiously inquiring after all the people who had missed lessons - where had they been, had they had a good time/were they better - and left me out. Then her gaze rested briefly on me and she went "Emma. Emma is always here". Which is PATENTLY UNTRUE. She hates me. Or, perhaps more likely, she has me confused with Elena, even though Elena is about 6 feet tall,  blonde and Ukrainian. Actually, on reflection I don't know which of these is more likely but am tending to the former.


I continue to live for Belgian fashion personality and generally fabulous human being Didier Vervaeren's Instagram feed. DV has an extremely strong personal brand/look and a way with a long hashtag. In his most recent picture he is apparently barbecuing a pig in a field in Berlin, which activity is in no way detracting from his inherent fabulousness. I commend him to you in the strongest of terms. He was once on my tram and asked me the way somewhere and I was totally starstruck.


I think Audible was hiding my audiobook from me due to being in Belgium. If you want it, it's here. I didn't read it. This was not due to them telling me I couldn't due to clicking my tongue like an enervated dolphin, but due to time constraints. Linking to this has showed me the incredibly lovely Amazon reviews some of you have left, for which the most abject, grovelling, weepy thanks. THANK YOU.

Redundant parenting

I am now in possession of a fourteen year old. Preparing his birthday has been considerably easier than giving birth to him, particularly since he now wants me neither to make him an adorably wonky homemade cake or even a nice homemade meal, deduce what you wish about my domestic talents from this. I have a Phénix - blackcurrant and pistachio moussey thing - from the posh bakery and have ordered burritos. If you have any advice about parenting fourteen year olds, I am all ears (I initially typed "all years", which is how I feel today), given I continue to feel as if I am perpetually failing in every respect. I mean, he's lovely, but we watched "Unbearable Billionaires Fight Each Other In Hideously Unbecoming Ways" yesterday (I don't know what its real name is, but it was on Channel 4 and featured that woman who painted her Kensington mansion stripy to piss her neighbour off) and L was entirely in favour of the hideously disruptive, loud and blingy many-storied basement developments. Maybe he'll store me in one when I get old.


Due to a combination of confusion and greed I accidentally ate my lunch at 10:30 am today and then tried to power through (ha, "power") until dinner. This was a hideous error of judgment which has led to several hours of me muttering "I hate everyone" with quiet venom, and culminated in me punching a bush on my walk home from Dutch class. Do not eat your lunch at 10:30 kids, lunchtime exists for a reason and that reason is to PREVENT MURDER, horticultural or otherwise.

Goat sharing

You know how a while ago I offered to send you a hilarious article about Bear Grylls style survival from The Times if you did not have a sub and wanted to read it? I extend the same offer if you would like to read an insane, amusing, kind of terrible article about that man who decided to become a goat. Just email me if this is up your strasse.


30% Passage of time amazement
30% Hang-spair (my patented portfolio emotion)
25% Anti-murder leftover beetroot ravioli (still no)
25% Gin temptation

You? What would be your patented portfolio emotion?

Monday, 2 May 2016


This post is basically an excuse to say that I have put up my reading list for April. I feel sure there is something missing, but maybe I spent ages on A Place of Greater Safety (I did, it was worth it)?


We went on a long old persons' hike yesterday to Furfooz. Furfooz! FURFOOZ! You cannot imagine how many times I said "Furfooz" over the three hours we were there. It is my new favourite place name. I strongly recommend Furfooz to Belgium dwellers and indeed others lured into Belgium by its other many and various delights. Furfooz offers prehistoric caves, a Roman fortress, a peregrine's nest and the maddest bar imaginable, in a shack on the very muddy waterfront. The bar is called "La Flobette" which sounds like a puppet on a children's TV show and features an outdoor lavatory on a raised plinth. I should have taken a picture of it, because I can't really explain satisfactorily with words.

Despite liking walking a great deal, we do not really have the temperament for long hikes, since our default attitude to most things in life is "LET US DO THIS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE" which does not make for a savouring, appreciative kind of walk. There is no time to smell the flowers/eat the mini Twixes, because we must continue this relentless slog until it is over. This was aggravated yesterday by having forgotten any form of performance fabric waterproofs, meaning we had one eye on the menacing Belgian skies the whole time and forgetting any kind of snack meaning we were racing to get back to Furfooz's only food outlet (we did and were rewarded by the landlady showing us lots of pictures of her Chinese Crested dog).

We did stop very briefly on the way, once for me to stare at a small brown bird that was actually diving right under the water in the river and coming up with .. something (fish? worm?), then diving down again. What could this be, bird people (and by "bird people", obviously I mean "Wanstead Birder")? It wasn't a kingfisher and it didn't seem to have any obvious white on it, so I don't think a dipper either. For all I know this may be common bird behaviour, but it seemed weird to me.

We also stopped to marvel at this crazy ass castle, the Château de Walzin, in private ownership and not accessible to the public:

What the hell goes on in there? I'm fascinated.

The ouipette was underwhelmed by the whole business:

Le Sérum du Futur

When I went to purchase my wildly expensive body cream at the funereally dark and luxurious perfumery, I got given a voucher for its sister shop next door, the bright white new age beauty shop, to get a free sample of something describing itself as "le sérum du futur". In order to obtain your sample you had to go and let an enthusiastic man tell you all about the serum of the future, which I did but it was extremely confusing. He definitely mentioned both human growth hormone and volcanos, though how the two are related was unclear. I have lost my ability to suspend disbelief where beauty products are concerned, which is a great sadness to me, but I am nevertheless faithfully applying my three drops of future serum in the hope of one of the following: time travel, flight, a unicorn or radiance. I will let you know how it goes.

20% Other people's bank holidays resentment
10% On my second day waiting in for a desk to be delivered, total radio silence from deliverers, rage
10% Beetroot ravioli (no, on balance)
10% Luridly unpleasant dreams
10% Law
10% Freezing due to total inactivity
10% Wondering whether to release the chickens for a while on the juuuust recovering grass, purely for my amusement.
10% Enjoying the silence


Saturday, 30 April 2016

Idiot Brain

Hello. My name is The Idiot Brain, apparently

(This was entirely accidental, but it seems terribly appropriate)

Here I am cutting the - if I say so myself and I do, having just eaten the leftovers - excellent Mary Berry sponge I brought along.

I really enjoyed Thursday night's event in Brussels Waterstones. There was an excellent discussion about which world or Belgian leader would look best rendered in cake (Didier Reynders = too grey, David Cameron = too pink, Justin Trudeau = too beautiful). Someone said "can I ask a personal question" sending me spiralling into terror and then asked something totally gentle and not searching. Quite a lot of people I know and adore were there, smiling at me encouragingly and I only talked myself into a dry mouthed corner once or twice.

If you are so inclined you can listen to a PODCAST of the Paris event, here. I have not been able to listen to more than twenty seconds because it turns out I still click my tongue as if attempting to echolocate when nervous and it's mortifying.

Since then I have been in a slump, mainly eating carbohydrates and catching up on Line of Duty. My current position - post-burrito sofa pythoning, catching up on the end of The People v OJ Simpson (my recording of which came with a tantalising glimpse of something I believe is called An Island Parish about Shetland, the minute or two I saw featuring not only A CHICKEN RACE but a Shetland pony show, I must investigate closer) - looks unlikely to change any time soon.


Trip to the far-flung, high-pitched vet for expensive tortoise maintenance

Impending sequence of child/Belgian holidays putting paid to my all-important brooding in silence time

Bored of waking at 5am

Generally a maelstrom of conflicting unmanageable emotions and insecurities

Unsure what to do next, workwise

The delectable Eric Kayser bakery was supposed to open a branch nearby on Thursday but has STILL not opened

Child turns 14 on Tuesday and I am fairly confident 14 was the actually WORST age for me, let's hope it's not hereditary

Dog is super extra whiny today for no apparent reason (hail trauma?).


Delicious custard doughnut

Apparently this is the last day of super shit weather for a while

Have decided I am allowed to have an additional treat in form of replacing my super expensive Portrait of a Lady body cream

Season 2 Kimmy Schmidt

Got a couple of really lovely emails/tweets from people who have read book


As per above (50% emotional maelstrom, 50% carbohydrate)


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Winter is coming

Let's have some normality around here (NB: apart from obligatory promo for Waterstones Brussels Event tomorrow, here. There is wine! For free! I am making cookies! We will discuss the time I made a cake in the shape of Guy Verhofstadt's face!* There may also be a slightly book related part at the end of this post, ssssh).


1. I tried to do some baking today and my spatula got caught in the blade of my Kitchen Aid, arced across the kitchen and landed in a bowl of eggs, exploding three of them, a series of events so improbable it would be impossible to reproduce. This is the universe telling me not to do baking. That is a shame since I really want to attempt another ludicrous cake soon - possibly an Opéra/Bamboo or an Antarès, but oh, I have the macaron fear and also the Joconde fear, and other varieties of almond and egg white based terror.

2. This ludicrous apocalypse weather. I have seen more hailstones this week than in the entire rest of my life. The chickens are funny with hail. Initially they think it is food and peck excitedly at it, then they get more and more confused and bedraggled and finally run away and hide, only to be fooled as soon as the next hailstorm comes (currently, that is about 45 seconds after the previous one). That is the only good thing about hail. I had to wear my Goretex cagoule today to go INTO THE TOWN, the actual town, where city sophisticates (= shoeless street drinkers) mill around, in a sophisticated fashion. This constitutes is a whole new level of middle aged shame, but man, it was seductive with its many pockets and weather resistance.

3. Pepper, the ultimate dickhead hen, has a new quirk, which involves sitting on top of her water bucket, throne-style, then shitting into the water, which I then have to change. Feathered devil.

4. All that stuff in that article about pets I wrote is truer than ever - we have ANOTHER ailing tortoise. I have been rubbing two kinds of ointment on its eye and have had to make an appointment with the Specialist With The Very High Pitched Voice who is far away, so that's Saturday sorted.

5. 5am dread infused wake ups appear to be a regular thing for S/S 16.

6. May, the freelancer's month of dread in continental Europe, is approaching rapidly. In preparation for the endless assortment of random mid-week public holidays, F is off school already tomorrow. Next week all hell breaks loose and I believe they are only going to school for 2 days total. It continues in this vein for weeks. God help us all.

7. I have missed two Dutch classes and am super-behind and the girl who is really good at Dutch will have zoomed past me and I will be left behind at tomorrow's class, raging and ashamed and unable to do my irregular imperfects.

8. I am also very behind on my admin and a trail of mislaid pieces of paper dances just out of my sight in every corner of the house. Well, I assume they do, I certainly can't find any of them.

9. Bin night.


1. There seem to be a profusion of amusing docu-soaps on TV currently. I have enjoyed: The Yorkshire Vet, again (my whole family hate me since I made them watch the Yorkshire vet castrating a succession of alpacas and tossing their testicles into a pile of hay, but I am unrepentant). Throwing Money at the Process of Having a Baby, or something (millionaire maternity at the Portland. I used to walk past this place often and rubber-neck for celebrities without success), Billionaires Horrible Interior Decoration (which has had the unfortunate side effect of making me LONG for a bespoke bed at £40,000 of your finest pounds) The Island with (or rather without) Bear Grylls, etc etc. I haven't had to think in the evening for weeks.

2. Email exchange with B ending with me writing "Hmm, spider penis sounds awfully familiar. I am sure we have discussed spider penis before."

3. We have put the fire on because of the apocalypse weather and it is SO cosy, though this year's logs are so large I can only stagger up the stairs with one at a time.

4. The Great Big Lizard brought this GIF to my attention and now I cannot stop watching it for lo, it is perfection. The way it pans up to the capybara. Who is the genius behind it?

5. Frite night.

6. Lots of kindness of various kinds.

For your consideration

This on French dressing for The Pool, where I am also the Bedtime Book Club Book this week should you wish to try before you buy (the pygmy goat is only a gazillion copies away).

Katyboo wrote this and it is beautiful and thoughtful and gets it and I feel extremely lucky. I know it is disgusting behaviour to link to this and I will smite myself with scorpions all night or failing that lie awake in sweaty dread, because that is my current MO.


35% Frites
20% Frustration at ongoing failure to watch most recent ep of Line of Duty
20% Cake concerns
15% I should probably wash my wig
10% But I probably won't bother.



Saturday, 23 April 2016

Paris Paris Paris

So: Thursday. Thursday was amazing, and strange and unreal. I am going to write it down even if it is a bit boring to read, being in the "and then we did this" mode, because I really need to remember it later on when I am back to being Eeyoreish and immersed in the Powerpoints of Death. I'm not very good at that whole "being in the moment" business, so I need to be able to do it retrospectively. This was definitely to be savoured. Post contains the words "beautiful", "mad", "ludicrous" far too many times and there are a lot of photos. On that basis, let us proceed (update: I am having to do this for a second time thanks to Blogger losing the whole lot ARGH).

I got to Paris in the morning (after a train ride sitting next to an aeronautical engineer who of course turned out to live about 100 yards from me and who told me about his French bulldogs). The sun was out and it was balmy and beautiful and the Air bnb M and I had rented was in the middle of the Marais, all sun-warm honey stone and nonsensically pretty little boutiques (it was brilliant, perfect for acting out all your fantasies of Parisian living and highly recommended if you don't mind having to do some full on contortionism to get in and out of the shower/loo).

I dragged M off on a cake crawl even though she was actually dying of a chest infection.

1. Du Pain et des Idées

I dream of these little savoury bread twists.

2. Stohrer

Oldest pâtisserie in France. Home of the rum baba. We did not have a rum baba, because gross. We had this guy. He was actually not up to his usual standards, but tasty nonetheless.

3. Lafayette Gourmet

Lafayette Gourmet plays a really pivotal role in the book but they have MOVED it, so we wandered around in confusion for a while, but finally located the Sadaharu Aoki counter and the significant Bamboo cake. Then M saw a sign for a Pierre Hermé ice cream counter, so we went there and found THESE BEAUTIES, which are macaron ice cream sandwiches:

I love this picture of us maddened by sugar:

I think I might print it out and put it on my office wall along with the polaroid from the very first time we ever met, which was also in Paris.

Then we went back and had a rest and took a selection of stupid pictures. Look, I am totally calm and not freaking the fuck out at all.

M vetoed the dress - too dressy - so I wore my discount silk shirt with little swimmers all over it and discount Margaret Howell trousers and we drank half a bottle of champagne as we got ready. There was a total fucking panic when I realised I had left my eyeliner on the table at home and a woman with no lashes really can't do without liner on a Big Occasion, or indeed any occasion at all in Paris. M lent me a crayon-y thing and I cobbled a bit of face together, then we walked through the Marais and over the river and along the Seine in the twilight and it was beautiful, stupidly beautiful and there were people kissing all along the quais.

I dunno why I'm putting so many pictures of me: I think I can't quite believe it was me, there, doing it and I need hard evidence.

I looked thoroughly pissed off here, but it's just the cold hand of terror clenching my insides up. As it turned out, the teror was totally unnecessary. Everyone was LOVELY, the audience were smiley and encouraging, my sister came, no one quizzed me on French politics or Proust and Shakespeare & Co in the balmy spring evening was like something out of a fecking romantic comedy it was so charming. I think I did ok at the reading/answering questions though I did gibber on in a not especially coherent fashion at some points. I especially liked the bit where someone asked me what French expressions I thought were particularly telling about the French character and my mind went totally blank and I ended up ranting on about jambes lourdes and the French obsession with magnesium (I have fully internalised this and am devoted to magnesium too).

Afterwards people wanted their books signed and I signed books which felt like a complete out of body experience, Barbara took a picture, or I wouldn't have quite believed it happened. I then completely fucked up her book dedication, due to being barely sentient with the weirdness of it all, sorry again Barbara and Rob.

We had a mad, funny dinner then M took me to Le Caveau de la Huchette, legendary jazz club type place which was magical and strange and I got to watch her DANCE, she is a fiendishly good dancer. There was a child prodigy boogie woogie pianist, a weirdly high concentration of bald American gentlemen in their 60s and an insane woman who came over and plucked petals off the rose she was holding and laid them on our table with a beady expression of deranged menace.

On the way out we stopped to take a picture of Shakespeare & Co in the moonlight. A rat ran in front of me down the drain and I became very over-excited "LOOK A RAT DID YOU SEE THE RAT", I don't know what is wrong with me.

We walked home along the other side of the Seine and it was EVEN MORE STUPIDLY BEAUTIFUL in the moonlight (nearly full, clear and pale yellow). Ludicrous. Paris, you beautiful bastard.

There you go. My book is launched! If you see it in the wild I would love a picture. And if you read it and like it and are inclined to leave an Amazon review apparently that is a very helpful thing for the goat fund, so I would be hugely grateful if you did.

Reminder: On Thursday 28th April at 7pm I will be doing something similar at Waterstones Brussels, details here (no rats or Pierre Hermé, but otherwise similar). Come! Don't quiz me about Proust!


100% CAKE


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Minus one

Ah, I'm so sad about Victoria Wood. What a bloody brilliant woman.

I have been up since 4:45 when L started loudly making himself breakfast (this from the child who disdains breakfast approximately 99% of the time) prior to the ridiculously early school trip departure and I'm not wholly serene to say the least about tomorrow so today has involved the following:

1. Saying "petits gâteaux' over and over again in Tom Kerridge's West Country accent (are you watching Bake Off Crème de la Crème? I love that French judge, I love him, I love his angry face and the way he says "sponge" and the furious disdain with which he pokes substandard dacquoise).

2. Deciding that before tomorrow I ought to be fully au fait with everything that has happened in French politics in the past 10 years, just in case, and trying to read a million articles about the loi el khomri but getting nowhere.

3. Starting to make tea/breakfast and forgetting about it for an hour. Starting again. Forgetting again. Giving up and having three lunches instead.

4. Practising reading out loud to the dog who stalked away coldly into another room.

5. Picking compulsively at lips.

6. Reading entire synopsis of A la recherche du temps perdu JUST IN CASE (in case what? In case of a surprise test on Proust? Yep, that's definitely a thing that happens in the normal course of a book event).

7. Buying and eating an M&S apple turnover telling myself it is in some way fitting or symbolic (it isn't, it is of no symbolic significance whatsoever except my friend Kate who features in the book introduced me to it).

8. Reading the end of A Place of Greater Safety which I have been rereading this month and loving utterly but MY GOD, it is not a good book if you are in a state of high nervous whateverthefuck. Doom! Dread! Betrayal! Galloping inevitability of tragedy!

9. Curling up under the printer when it had one of its fits and keening gently.

10. Laughing at this missive from my sister about getting mansplained at by a rogue poet.

I am off to wash my "hair" now because I am going to Paris tomorrow and they're not going to put up with this lank Old El Paso scented version. EEEEEK. THIS IS IT.