Thursday, 22 June 2017

(Give me) Swelter

My dog is a sexist ingrate part two

Over recent weeks I have had increasing difficulty persuading the dog to leave the house in the morning for a walk (a lovely, long, off the lead walk in a park). I have a selection of short videos depicting this, but am too lazy to attempt to upload them. Basically he sits in the corner, fixes me with an eye of hate and refuses to get up. You may attach a lead to him and gently tug at it, he does not give a shit, though may coldly look away from you to emphasise how Not Ok this walk thing is. In the evening, by contrast, when my husband and I take him out, he positively bounds to the door, thrilled to be offered the chance to trail boringly around the block and probably spend 5 minutes tied up outside Picard.

My husband believes this is because the dog does not like MY walks (long, entertaining, dog-focused), but is totally fine with his (short, boring, human-focused). I was not convinced but he demonstrated that this is indeed the case with a galling degree of success this morning by managing to get the dog up and by the door in less than a minute. I wouldn’t say the dog looked thrilled, exactly, but he obeyed without question. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth, etc. He didn’t get what he wanted anyway because I still took him on a long, entertaining walk to the park (nb as soon as we're out, he's fine and expresses no further protest).

Hang on, I'm actually trying to upload the video, let's see if this works. It does! Two parts!



Summer (cont)

The heat has got to my stomach and I am bloated like an ailing Yorkshire Vet sheep and crampy (yes, I know this is pathetic, ouipette is similarly afflicted, we are both gurgling away, we are creatures of the frozen north) so after a morning of biliously chewing crackers and complaining, I have moved into the basement. I am typing this with laptop balanced on ironing board. The view is terrible and the lighting effects DHSS-chic, but it is DELICIOUSLY cool.

(Update: it's actually too cold, I had to come back up to the hell-furnace, but it's good to have the option)


My hairdresser cancelled on me due to being famous and in demand (not a problem anyone will ever have with me, no sirree) and i have had to reschedule wig cut for July. Given I basically have NO hair left at the back, this is problematic, but I am just going with it, on the basis that at on the odd occasions I leave the house in the next two weeks no one will be looking a short cross middle aged woman in Gap Girlfriend Chinos when there is an endless expanse of nubile flesh to contemplate in this weather. I look like an absolute knob in all hats, so that isn’t an option.

Also, I updated the reading page: quality not quantity this month!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Reading (god, I should update that too, sigh, soon)
Simultaneously reading David Sedaris Diaries and Diary of a Provincial Lady which has made for some confusing sleepy late night moments when I forget which one I’m reading, quaaludes or black taffeta? I am thinking I could do some short diary style entries here to kickstart the lapsed blog habit. We shall see. I seem to spend hours every day just staring dully at the tortoises as they try to ram raid their way into the house to eat the dog's food and sexually assault each other. It's my plan canicule, or possibly my Plan Vigi-Dugong as I told M yesterday, ie. Vigipirate but with more aimless wallowing and minimal leaving the house. I don't strictly speaking know how dugongs feel about Haagen-Dazs mini salted caramel ice creams on sticks, but I'm sure if they were introduced they would be in favour.

Today is the first day that is officially too hot for my uniform/fetish, the Gap Girlfriend Twill Stripe Chino and I am furious about it. I haven’t worn a skirt for, ooh, 18 months minimum and it’s not going well (aside: I tried to discuss the fact that I have in my middle years developed a major downer on feminine clothes in my Dutch oral on Monday, but it rapidly span out of control). My legs don’t go with anything, they are Shetland pony sturdy and now that I am confronted with them up close and not clothed in fabric I realise they are not just blue and dusty, which I knew, but also veiny. Ugh. I'm very body positive as long as I don't have to examine the actual reality of my body but in this heat it is unavoidable. Also: wig sweat.

Family Life
Exam season (80% lounging around the house, 19% reluctant revision, 1% actual exams) has dragged itself to a long-overdue close. I learned a number of things about Belgian geography, Latin and advertising methods, all of which I am now seeking to forget. The boys are now home, basically, FOREVER. I write locked, sweltering in my attic while they kills strangers online. It is a horrifyingly noisy business. They sound like a gang of male elephant seals fighting on a beach, all deep, throaty bellows and I can tell you that I have achieved absolutely nothing for the past few weeks except tidying two cupboards and preventing an ant invasion of the kitchen.

New household rules must be established to deal with this terrifyingly long stretch of adolescent freedom, eg. you must get dressed at least twice a week, no killing strangers online before ten, don’t stare at your mother with undisguised hostility and scorn when she suggests you could read a book or that it's ok to be bored because boredom allows true creativity to emerge.

Whenever anyone is really awful I suggest enrolling them on a survival course I keep getting emails about, where you have to make your own bivouac and hunt rats and learn about hypothermia THE HARD WAY. I think it sounds like good apocalypse training which is clearly necesssary in 2017 and if results are poor, I will be sending them both off for a bracing week of rat trapping in the Ardennes.

Minor altercation with elderly neighbour recently who called me out for the heinous crime of not saying “bonjour” to her as I walked past. Immediate reaction, and one I pursued, was to gaslight her, claiming that I had in fact said hello and she hadn’t heard me (I hadn't, she scares me), but on mature reflection a better and more long-term solution would have been to explain to her that I am English and that in my country the polite thing to do in an urban environment is to pretend the other person doesn’t even EXIST. And that saying hello, for me, is basically an act of aggression.

Have turned, over the past few months, into a person who likes cheese, which is a troubling development after years of cheese refusenickery and neshness. Still only goat or melted, but the goat habit is getting out of hand. Had to have a v confusing discussion with man in cheese shop while trying to select a new goat, due to the paucity of my cheese vocab.

E: I want something that isn’t too crémeux

Cheese guy: Oh, so something coulant?

E: UGH NO, DEFINITELY NOT COULANT. I think coulant means what I thought crémeux meant.

CG: Sec? Pas trop sec?

E: I do not know what those words mean applied to cheese. Is frais a thing I might want? Do I like frais?

CG (indicating cheese): This is very frais.

E: Oh. I tried that. I didn’t like it, it didn’t taste of anything. Maybe I need it a bit more affiné. I like that one (pointing) and that one (also pointing).

CG (losing patience, but very politely): You should take this one then.

E: Is it crémeux?

CG: Ye… no?

I bought his cheese. It was a quadrillion Euros and I don’t like it much, but am working my way through it bravely.

Belgian news over past few months
- Prime Minister deafened by race starting pistol
- Medical students encouraged to show cleavage at graduation
- New political crisis precipitated by the guy who looks like Laura Palmer’s dad from Twin Peaks who leads the orange party deciding he won’t work with the socialists any more, because the socialists are in the throes of yet another corruption scandal.
- Profusion of holes throughout Brussels making public transport a magical mystery tour orchestrated by friendly but basically clueless blokes in fluorescent tabards.


God, it was amazing. Look how much the children are enjoying themselves.

Given that this was a trip that combined RELICS (we trekked to Conques, which has the skull of Sainte Foi in a bejewelled case, stolen by some monks in the 9th century in a heist that was ten years in preparation) and EQUINES I was in ecstasy the whole time (well, ok, not when I found out we were sharing a dormitory with ten pilgrims on the hottest Ascension Day since 1900). I am now plotting a donkey fund to add to my goat fund (current balance - €5 and some dust). If you want to go donkey trekking (IT IS AMAZING), go here. The baby donkeys that refused to be born when we were there will be born now and if there is anything nicer than a baby donkey, I cannot imagine what it is (a baby donkey with a coffee religieuse in one of its paniers?). I wrote about it for the Observer mag, I will post a link when it comes out.

More soon, this outlet may be my only lifeline to sanity, muttering in the basement is no longer doing it for me.

What have you been up to? I know what the witch doctor spammers have been up to, but how about the rest of you? 

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?