Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Leave the Important Items With Me

I really missed my mum on Sunday, not so much because it was Mother’s Day, but because it was Mother’s Day and it was SHIT due to a perfect storm of teenageness + me being hungover and over-sensitive and my various lingering feelings about the patriarchy, etc etc.

My mum often used to have terrible birthdays/Mother’s Days when I was young, because Prog Rock, although a saint in almost all ways, doesn’t really have much truck with end stage capitalism, and because I was a sulky teenage git and my sister was too young to do anything, and it would often end with my mother in a whirling, weeping fury as we ate a rubbish pub lunch somewhere, in silence. When I found myself sitting crying angrily on a pile of laundry on the basement floor on Sunday, I couldn’t help but think of all her disappointing festivities and how nice it would have been to call her up and tell her about it and laugh about it and insult family members and I could also apologise for our former shitness. So then I cried some more.

ANYWAY. We did - some subset of us which may or may not have included the router - have an excellent pizza and I insisted on having a spritz despite being hungover and a pudding despite … actually despite nothing, I’m allowed a fucking pudding.

Not a pudding

Chinese textbook creative writing prompts

F’s Chinese textbook - do you remember the poems? The sad ones about the beans boiling to death, etc? Well it’s a different textbook, but equally quidsworth - has been entertaining us recently.

Observe the chapter headings and the weird, disturbing picture they create:

If you can't read them (clicking on it might help) here are a selection of my favourites.

This one seems to come from another story entirely, but I also want to read it: 

Things children in the street say about Ouipette multiple times daily


Oh le petit chien!

Oh le grand chien! 

Il est tout maigre! 

Il n'a pas de zoreilles!
(he's not no earses!)

Pourquoi il n'a pas de zoreilles?
(why he got no earses?)

Oh, il fait caca beurk. 

The ears thing is an oddity. He does fold his ears very aerodynamically to walk. I tried to take a pic this morning, but obvs he was not keen to cooperate, so this is a sort of half fold, because I had stopped to try and take the picture, thus obviating the need for ear foldage (sigh). 

Ouipette is having a bad run of things. He got attacked by an elderly Lassie outside Carrefour yesterday, pulled a muscle trying to run away from The Crazy Cartoonishly Shaggy Dog In The Park and also Hillary has taken to chasing him round the back yard.

Yorkshire Vet Summary

Massive pig high jinks, bloody shit in a test tube, Peter shows unexpected mastery over a horse, lamb with a second head sized growth almost carks it but pulls through, Peter fixes a terrier's leg with many wires and without ANY of the histrionics Noel "Supervet" Fitzpatrick would have brought to the task ("No one else could do this, this is the hardest job I have EVER done, I am SO EXHAUSTED", etcetcetcetc). More and more Peter is my hero, with his gleeful, pink faced jollity at everything, from flapjack to puppies to the warmth afforded by sticking your hand up a cow's arse on a winter morning.

That's it, really.


50% Hay fever remedies
20% Underbaked cinnamon roll
30% Generic worry.


Tuesday, 9 May 2017

An argument of apples

A smorgasbord of irrelevance below.

1. Ceci n'est pas un opéra

My son's Magritte themed opera was everything I had hoped for, ie. 100% incomprehensible. It was as if they had taken the tweets of the Magical Realism Bot and turned them into a mash-up of music, spoken word and dance. Pity my spouse and his parents who do not even have the barest rudiments of Dutch, and who must have just allowed the whole carnival of insanity to wash over them in a tidal wave of confusion. I understood ... some. It didn't actually help much. Favourite elements: 

- My son's hat, which I will not show you a picture of, because sadly he is 13 and has a right to a private life, but which was a royal blue bowler hat, topped with gigantic clouds and a space rocket. The guy next to him in the orchestra had one with a sort of orange dinosaur on it. All the orchestra members were wearing similar hats (you can see if you enlarge that photo) and really I would like all orchestras to wear something similar now. 

- A man playing the vastest contrabassoon type instrument I have ever seen, which itself was wearing a little hat (white plastic bucket) on which he had writted "ceci n'est pas un pot de crème fraîche" for no reason at all I could elicit. I could not even tell if the bucket was part of the normal kit for an enormous contrabassoon or its costume for the performance. Why would the contrabassoon not have its own hat, after all? 

- Some apples in sleep masks arguing with each other in a rather pass-agg manner (Apple 1 had gone to the seaside with some other friends but not Apple 2, and Apple 2 got secretly huffy about it, then Apple 1 got secretly huffy in turn and it was all very awkward. Fruit! Get your grievances out in the open!)

- 2 Magritte impersonators, one with a dog on wheels

- A giant crow

- Children zipped in suitcases like that MI5 man and dragged onstage, in total defiance of health and safety norms

- A unicorn playing the glockenspiel

I will not miss my frequent, epic public transport pilgrimages to Jette for the rehearsals for the Magritterama, except maybe I will? It was interesting to see a whole other part of the city. Jette is quite sleepy, like here, but has a completely different feel, like you're in a small town in Flanders suddenly. There is a station and a moustache themed friterie and a profusion of parks and a rather spectacular looking butchers and I had to go there on the train and I do like a little train journey. Anyway. No more Jette and no more of the hideous Koekelberg Basilica looming at you from all angles.


2. Priestdaddy

Seriously, don't bother with my reading list for now (even though, classy segue, I have now added April), just all go and get this. I haven't laughed this much since Love, Nina and have been banned from reading it in bed, due to full body shaking with hysteria. I want to give everyone I know a copy. It's amazing.

3. This is nice

I was so happy about this review. I still have Weird Feelings about the whole book thing, but this was more or less unambiguously positive and I find that I kind of want to cut it out and hide it in a drawer to look at. I have no idea when that picture was taken, my "hair" doesn't look anything like that now (not least because my current wig is going severely bald at the back).

4. We Need to Talk About Bake Off Crème de la Crème

I feel I need to engage with this more intensely than I have to date. Angus Deayton who seems to be trudging through a living nightmare of his own making and who has no interest whatsoever in sugarcraft. The intense, thorough, unsparing cruelty of both judges. The weirdly large number of teams meaning you can't really get attached to anyone. The French bloke's accent. The messed up final challenge where everyone produces something spectacularly horrible looking of which most elements aren't even edible. It all just feels a bit .. off (so obviously I love it). Unfortunately it  (i) clashes with Yorkshire Vet and (ii) is universally despised by everyone else in this house. They'd almost prefer to watch Peter cheerfully castrating something.

I must go, my children are home, disdaining my painstakingly prepared baked goods and being lumpenly insolent. They obviously require chastising with scorpions. How are you all?

Sunday, 30 April 2017

Just another dog

I try and talk to my son about the newly composed Magritte themed opera he is playing violin in.

E: So is there singing? Speaking? Dance?

Child: Yeah

E: Is there a story?

Child: (Incredulous stare) Huh?

E: I mean, do you know what the story is?

Child: No cos it’s in Dutch (insolent upward inflection to delivery to convey my great stupidity)?

E: What actually happens?

Child (sighing): There’s a giant coffin with, like, a bowler hat on.


Child: I’m actually going to bed now bye

I suppose I will find out on 6th May.

I try to communicate with my other son, on a school trip

Child leaves, alone, on foot, at 5:30 am. I instruct him he must tell me when he arrives so I know he hasn't been abducted.

Several hours pass

E: Have you been abducted?

Further 2 hour interval

Child: i haven't been abducted

Several days later

E: You ok?

Several more days later

E: Assuming you're still alive, do you know when you get back?

Time at which school party supposed to return comes and goes.

E: Shall I order you a pizza?

1 hour after putative return time


Doorbell rings, it is child.

(incidentally, he has just told me he "doesn't care" what we have for dinner or what cake I make/purchase for his birthday and I think my heart is a bit broken)

My dog is a misogynist (or he just doesn't like me)

I have realised gradually, unpleasantly, how very much my dog prefers my husband to me, despite the incontrovertible fact that I am the only person in this household who walks him and feeds him (dog, not husband, quoique).  He also prefers my older son to me, but at least my older son occasionally looks up from watching videos of morons playing video games to throw his plush measles toy, so that seems more justified.

Evidence #1: when we go out for a walk, me, husband and dog and I cross the road to eg. throw a bag of shit away (picking up shit = another thing that is mysteriously a job that only I can do), Ouipette is wholly indifferent to my momentary absence. However, if husband moves even fractionally away from us, Ouipette loses his shit, refuses to move and stares around wildly and inconsolably until husband returns.

Evidence #2 despite not really liking being stroked, Ouipette will submit to lengthy strokings and ear pullings from husband in the evenings. If I attempt to stroke him, he moves away, coldly, much like a teenage boy.

E: (outraged) You're a SEXIST, Oscar, you fucker. This isn't how I raised you!

Child: The thing is, Dad's the alpha, isn't he. You're just ... another dog.


If you don't know what it is, it's probably a deer

Yesterday we found this list (scroll down) of authorised mammals you can keep as pets in Brussels and wow, I am excited. Bison? Or a spiny mouse? A gayal looks cool too. If anyone can work out what an "ynomys social" is, I would be fascinated to know. Would I like it? I'm not sure about the "social" part.

I have put up my March reading, btw. The Ariel Levy is especially great.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Things I would have tweeted if I were not on a Twitter break

(obviously some of them would have required several tweets and hopefully some of them I would have thought twice about bothering to tweet, though I can offer no guarantee of that)

1. Whatever is currently growing, flowering, pollinating, shedding in Brussels needs to take a long, hard look at itself before my throat closes up entirely.

2. I'm beginning to think Gap is knowingly exploiting me and my weakness for its "Girlfriend Twill Stripe Chino". Having fallen hopelessly in love with said trouser and having started to stockpile it in a range of colours, Gap has started to torment me by sending me special discount codes just after I order a pair. Look, it says, today you get 30% off! 35% and free shipping! 20%!  45% AND A A PONY! ACT NOW OFFER ENDS AT MIDNIGHT! Soon there will be no space and no money left in the world, just me and a massive pile of fairly ordinary trousers, into which I will be weeping. It's chinos for dinner again, kids.

3. Further Gap Girlfriend Twill Stripe Chino thought: these trousers, which are tight but not skinny jean tight, reveal to me by their fit that my left leg is fatter than my right leg. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE, they do the same exercise and consume the same foods. Maybe it is for the same reason that my left foot is always scaly and dry and my left ankle always swollen, things I attribute to a random mystery accident in 2005, where I woke up one morning with my left leg black with bruising up to the knee and no idea how it happened ('had you possibly been drinking?" the doctor enquired delicately, but I truly hadn't). I think I must have fallen off a high heel and not noticed because I was functionally insane in 2005, running on citalopram, shopping and miso soup. Anyway. My left leg is still fucked, it would appear.

4. Shape of every week: Monday galloping eye-popping anxiety, Tuesday still anxious, Wednesday tired and resentful, Thursday whispering "I hate everyone" every couple of hours, Friday morning just saying "fuck everything" out loud over and over whilst eating piles of things covered in butter, Friday afternoon, blank staring.

5. Dreamed that I caught eldest child red handed using a drug that my subconscious decided to name "Bio-Huff". BIO HUFF. Is that ... organic solvent? How does that work, subconscious? My subconscious is a dick.

6. Having time to worry about whether you are facilitating the patriarchy or are merely entrapped by it or both is probably the definition of not having proper problems to worry about (this is referring to myself, obviously, I'm hardly in a position to criticise anyone else's preoccupations).

7. Phrase "cheery picking" seen in document I am currently editing is extremely pleasing. See also phrase "salty and sweat buffet" spotted on an Instagram post.


Also pleasing in that Wikipedia entry:

"By 1884, Gauguin had moved with his family to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he pursued a business career as a tarpaulin salesman. It was not a success: He could not speak Danish, and the Danes did not want French tarpaulins."

I love Wikipedia entries. Anne Demeulemeester's claims her father was a "chicory professor"

9. More pleasing adventures in agenda writing:

"Het Zesde Metaal had their fourth album 'Calais' coming out last year and we were stunned! Even though they are singing in West-Flemish dialect, which is practically incomprehensible for the biggest part of Belgium and the rest of the world, everyone feels it, that folky music. The electronic elements on the new album are a real enrichement."

10. Jami Attenberg All Grown Up - started at 11pm, had finished by 8am next morning (and I slept quite reasonably between those hours too). SO GREAT.

11. Level of sleep deprivation where you call hail "gail", spell October "Otobre" and can't remember what the name of the cutting tool used in conjunction with a fork is = the stage at which you should probably step away from your writing based tasks for the day.

12. Four hours of Dutch class entirely on vocabulary relating to electrical appliances = at least 3.9 hours too many, but now I could probably write trilingual manuals for Van Den Borre (vous avez bien choisi) if all my work dries up.

That's it for now. More thoughts as I have them. I am feeling oppressed by the need to update the Reading page, because I have done MOUNTAINS of reading in last 2 months, so you can look forward (or not) to some extremely succinct reviews.

Oh! Also, I sent all the winners ("winners") their books Tuesday last week. Some of them have even arrived. Are you one of the lucky ones? Or has Bastardpost sent your prize to Bermuda?

Friday, 14 April 2017

Horse! Shops! Prizes!

Hello! Here is a small horse with no context whatsoever. He was very friendly, even when I insisted on putting my arms around him and inhaling his horse scent for fifteen minute stretches without his explicit consent (I gave him some carrots though).


The Easter holidays are proving interminable, again. I think I’ve just become monstrously intolerant and misanthropic with age, which means that the sight of giant lunking unwashed teenagers in pyjamas staring at screens for 10 hours a day (WHAT, what am I supposed to do, take them to a museum?) is increasingly irritating to me, especially when they appear around 2pm and quiz me on food options as if I were their sodding concierge-slash-butler. F is just back from ten days in China (China! In my day we hitchhiked to Filey, ate seagulls and slept on a bench, etc etc) with no internet, so I don’t feel too bad about him filling his eyes with crap. L went to Majorca, though I think he just lay around looking at YouTube for a week as he would have done here but with slightly better weather so he should probably be smited with scorpions into some improving activity, but I simply can’t be arsed. Also, I have work to do and cannot be spending my days smiting and catering (Smiting and Catering: A Mother's Lot).

The foregoing meant that our trip to Yorkshire last week was sans enfants, which was an interesting glimpse into our future. Good: no aggro, negotiating, complaints, demands for expensive steak in pubs and no difficulty in getting out of the house at 8am. Bad: tendency to wear fleece unchecked by teenscorn and that airless feeling when all the (bad tempered, obstreperous, but also very funny) youthful vitality is gone from the room and it’s just … us? We’ll need another dog, for sure. We do still seem to be broadly compatible, which is a relief though there may be a disparity in energy levels, there were lots of conversations along these lines:

Spouse: What shall we do NOW

Me: Sssh, why so loud, I thought I’d just do some sitting. In silence.

Spouse: I’ll just go and take something to pieces then and HIT IT WITH A HAMMER.

We also drank a lot of gin and walked up a lot of hills, and I read a mountain of books, which was ideal (will update book page soon). Getting home has been melancholy, though at least Hillary has been contained for a fortnight so we came home to a sprinkling of actual grass in the backyard, which was both welcome and surprising.


One of our agreed-upon activities (this is always shaming to confess in front of Prog Rock who lives the life of a holy hermit, existing only on lentils, Sainsbury's Basic Range apples, Le Monde Diplomatique and Russian literature, but we face up to our grossly acquisitive nature bravely) was to go to the York Designer Outlet, yet again. The Designer Outlet is a very strange place and you feel like the worst dregs of end-stage capitalism as you walk around it, mindlessly consuming, but if you can take the guilt and self-loathing, it has some excellent stuff. 40% of my wardrobe comes from the Margaret Howell outlet and I also found my favourite Paul Smith silk swimmers blouse there.

Margaret Howell proved very disappointing this time (in the sense that everything still cost an actual king’s ransom and I could not justify buying any of it), but I got what I THINK is a nice fine grey wool coat from Jaeger (RIP), because I am 130 years old. It was 112 pounds reduced from 350, which seemed a pretty decent reduction, though whether I will ever wear it remains to be seen. I would describe it as “dressing gown style” if this can be described as a style (it can’t).

The past

I went to the funeral of one of my former teachers from Quaker school whilst in York (one of the loveliest, kindest, sunniest men I have ever met, his coffin was papered with pages from the Guardian because he was an avid reader and did the crossword every day) which was sad, but also fascinating, since many of my other former teachers were also there and during silent meeting for worship I was able to look around the room and try and work out who was who. They divided into: wholly and entirely unchanged and changed beyond all recognition but were all delightful. The maths teacher said she recognised me because I "still stand in the same way" and one of the English teachers said she recognised my hair which is interesting since it is not the same hair at all, and indeed not even mine. It was nice, generally, to be in a Quaker environment again. They are extremely sound and gentle and kind, and being around them taught me to sit still for hours on end, something no one else in my family can manage for more than three minutes before dismantling the remote control and fiddling with its battery case until murder is the only reasonable option.

The present

It is Good Friday which is not a holiday in Belgium so I am waiting for comments on a piece of work whilst undressed giants slump around me and I have just realised that due to some horrific miscalculation and despite having carefully bought a packet in M and S in preparation, I do not have a single hot cross bun. I am going to have to compensate this evening with my newly acquired Yorkshire tea gin, which I believe is the beverage our saviour would favour if he happened to be around and looking for a stiffener in spring 2017.

Competition time

My book came out in paperback while I was away and I have just taken delivery of twenty copies, which seems somewhat overkill-y, and is probably more copies than have actually sold, so shall I do a small giveaway? If you would like a copy, I will give 8 of them away to the first people to comment and tell me why they would like one (dough scraper, door stop, filling for wet shoes), though obviously I am not going to promise Bastardpost will actually get it to your house, this is frequently too much to ask from my postal nemeses.

Excited? I bet you are. If you want even more of me, I have a piece in Red this month about how all my friends live in the computer.

Here is the dog looking superior in the N Yorks sunshine. I can tell you he wasn't looking at all superior 24 hours earlier when he was on a terrible comedown from the sedatives we give him to survive the ferry crossing. We had to wrap him in a towel and leave him on a chair in the kitchen until he recovered, looking for all the world like Whistler's mother. I did not take a picture of that because it seemed cruel, but now I slightly regret it.

(Important question: do other people cheat their Fitbits? I need to know)

Friday, 31 March 2017


Ok, in the spirit of reframing the steaming heap of terrible that this week has been (Brexit, release of Ru Paul's Drag Race s9 to UK but not Belgian Netflix, Xanax-necessitating school stress, 2500€ surprise social security bill, series of professional badnesses mainly still unresolved, culminating today in happy news of a contrôle fiscale) I am going to tell you some GOOD things.

1. All four tortoises are now eating! I have had an extremely stressful time with the females, who were very disinclined to emerge from hibernation and who have required daily baths, Reptoboost, much coaxing with varied foodstuffs and constant putting back under the heat lamp as they shuffled off to do their best to die, yet again. No such issue with the males, who emerged from hibernation, spent a month in our bathroom slamming themselves repeatedly against their food dish demanding more leaves, then were sent outside where they have indulged in a non-stop carnival of fighting, eating and attempted same-sex shagging. I will not draw any conclusions about male and female characteristics from this, no I will not.

2. I made both millionaire's shortbread and fudge brownies this week and both were successful and now my trousers are very tight, but I'm supposed to be being positive so no more of that, even though Tuesday is evil gynae weigh-in time and I am reasoning thus "if I just literally don't eat ANYTHING between now and Tuesday it might be alright", then filling my face with foods and planning tonight's pizza.

3. I am very much enjoying Birdcage Walk even though it is frequently making me think how awful it would have been to be a woman in the 18th century (or indeed any time pre-antibiotics). March reading has generally been quite good, I will update soon. I also found S-Town fascinating even though it was very upsetting in parts (and this makes interesting points about it that also struck me when listening).

4. My skin has improved, so now Frau Antje can wear it if she wishes (better skins are available).

5. We are going to Yorkshire next week with zero ingrate children, just the dog and, in my case, a huge pile of books. This is wonderful (except that I accidentally took on some work that I didn't actually want and will have to do on my holidays - SORRY, I know that is not good, but it's preying on me). I am looking forward to: lunch in the Wensleydale Heifer, lambs, birthday lunch with my surrogate sort of not mother, buying 800000 Yorkshire Gold teabags, Betty's (and particularly Betty's easter display), seeing my sister, maybe a trip to the Margaret Howell outlet shop and hours and hours of just staring at the moor, some bleak and bracing trudging.

6. Parts of the garden are starting to recover from Hillary assault and my current hen Alacatraz arrangement seems to be holding. It was 22°C yesterday and almost as warm today and I can feel my grey, lardy carcass relaxing slightly as the spring takes hold. Look, this was last weekend as we waited for yet another orchestra rehearsal to finish, all wild garlic and these white flower things and tiny red squirrels dashing around:

And this was just some random tree in the street, but I like it

7. B sent me an email this morning whose entire contents was the phrase "MEXICAN PENIS SEAT"

8. This cocktail

was delicious and after it and another one of its ilk I only felt about 38% like crawling away to die the next day, which at 42 is really the best one can expect.

9. I got this guy framed, finally:

And he fitted into a standard sized frame so it was (a) immediate and (b) cheap, also (c) everyone who works at the Schleiper framing department is filled with bonhomie towards their fellow men, making it a particularly delightful and let's be honest, unusual, Brussels retail experience.

10. I could watch this armadillo unrolling (also courtesy of B) infinite times and not get bored.

I encourage you to tell me of your own small good things in the comments but if it's a stunning writing related success KEEP IT TO YOURSELF, we don't need your sort round these parts.