Sunday, 13 August 2017

Ravishing Fusion

Slept badly, which is very rare for me, probably because of a rainy day of utter idleness, but also some pre-holiday work/menagerie worries. Used the time to finish Hillbilly Elegy, which left me somewhat unsatisfied, I bet he'll be weeping into his massive pile of money to hear that. Wondering which books to bring with me/download, not much has hit the spot so far this month (shit, I must do the July reading list). Thoughts? 

What with the tiredness and the undone work, here are some pictures for today:

I'm reviewing a hotel tonight and this is on the menu in the room SAY WHAT NOW?

I hope to encounter all of these terrifying garage forecourt compilation CD / condom brand condiments at breakfast tomorrow.

A subset of the menagerie enjoying a brief break in the clouds: 

This dog in Gaston ice cream parlour was charming and spectacularly well-behaved:

Mine managed to run into a tree and cut his ... do dogs have eyebrows? That general area. Back to the vet tomorrow for eyebrow assessment and travelling to UK visit, my kidney is only slightly foxed, reasonable offers considered. 

TFW you just can't be arsed to find a name for your restaurant "Listen, just, I don't know. Anything's fine"

Category is: my neighbours are on crack realness

How was your Sunday? 

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Self-promotion and self-sabotage


Despite my habitual August certainty that my life is unsustainable and a failure, I've written two ok things this month (nothing in the pipeline, this was a one-off, I'm back to copywriting about chain hotels and whispering vicious demotivational slogans to myself).

Today, a piece on television and teenagers. Since writing it (ages ago), we seem to have run out of good consensus telly: I've been dragged unwillingly through the latter half of Dexter (Quinn gets more and more brown and thin to the point where he becomes uncannily like the dessicated corpse of Ramses II in a striped shirt, Batista says "dio mio" a lot, Deb loses the plot to a point where there is NOWHERE left to go, emotional range wise, Charlotte Rampling is terrible) and failed to enthuse anyone about Fargo season 3. I just miss the happy days of Parks and Rec and 30 Rock. I want a good comedy, is that really too much to ask? The best laugh we've had in front of the telly as a family for months was watching David Guetta's set at Tomorrowland.

Last week a piece on the wonderful, extraordinary Mohamed El Bachiri whose wife was killed in the Brussels bombings. There was a lot in it, and in our conversation, about the Greeks, and especially the Odyssey, how important it is; how he's on his own quest, lost at sea with his motherless boys. There's more about it in his book, which is very special. I got an email from Prog Rock about it yesterday:

"Edwin Muir wrote a poem called The Return of Odysseus, where Penelope thinks "this is keep a vacant gate, where order and right and hope and peace can enter".  M E B's jihad, struggle to open and hold open a gate."

He always knows the right things, the things that shift and open your mind and your heart. I'm very lucky to have him in my life, for almost infinite reasons but especially that one.


This morning I demonstrated to my spouse my new technique to cope with Ouipette's post-illness tendency to do thirty tiny rabbit pellet shits a day by managing to use a single dog shit bag for two such pellets. He was utterly repelled, as well he might be even though it doesn't involve touching any shit, honest.

E: It's easy! And economical! Do you know how much all this is costing me? I've already shelled out for over €300 in vet's bills this month and O still needs to go back on Monday for his pre-England check. When I made the appointment this morning they welcomed me like the actual queen of England, that's how much money I've spent there recently.

Spouse (moving away from me with look of utter revulsion): Yeah I know we're broke, but that's a step too far for me.

Pretty sure that's the end of the physical aspect of our relationship.



Friday, 11 August 2017


1. Glamorous things I have bought online this month*

- A whippet collar from "Doggy Boho" (sob)

- A tub of live tiny mites that eat red mites

- Herbal worming solution and calcium supplements from Flyte So Fancy (such a great name)

- An SKF-608-2Z bearing single row deep groove ball (our dryer has died and my spouse fancies himself a have a go hero, I am half-admiring, half awaiting fiery death)

- A 3-hour "gorge walking" trip (wetsuit provided) for four people at the appropriately named "Hell Gill" because I am scared we will get bored and feast on each other's spinal fluid in Yorkshire.

(*only things I have bought online this month)

2. Bad signs at yoga class

(not literal signs, though they have those too, reading "life is perfecct" and "breathe" and they are also very bad indeed)

- Man at reception suggests you do "un peu de préparation psychologique" before you go

- Or recommends you take the class on an empty stomach

- People in the room have all started doing fucking sun salutations BEFORE the class actually starts

- Topless men

- (Redacted) is teaching

3. Activities my Fitbit thinks are steps

- Scratching the dog

- Struggling with a large packet of crisps

- Scratching my mosquito bites, JESUS THE BITES

- Brushing my teeth

- Making cinnamon rolls

4. Good things I have eaten this week

- Tiny, fresh, still warm Bolo di Coco coconut bun (Forcado)

- Waaaaaay too much Gomen Wot (Kokob)

- A salted and fresh ricotta and grilled aubergine pizza with perfect burnt-chewy base (Cocina Flagey, also two pretty good cocktails)

- Veggie tacos - though a bit more spice wouldn't go amiss (Charli Salé)

- Crisp outside, buttery inside, almond and raspberry cake with tart redcurrant compote (Pipaillon)

(Yes, my many Gap girlfriend twill stripe chinos *are* somewhat tight currently, how did you guess)

5. Culture I have consumed

- La Piscine de Roubaix: the most exquisitely converted 1930s swimming pool, with a rather eccentric collection (thigh rubbingly good textiles though)

- Baby Driver: think that's the first time I've had to actually cover my ears in a cinema? Not great female roles? Otherwise, sure.

- Homecoming podcast: David Schwimmer makes a spectacularly oleaginous and convincing baddie - OR IS HE?

- L'Amour est dans le Pré - Belgian farmer wants a wife. Eye-opening. I like the two Dutch stable owning sisters though.

- Hillbilly Elegy: I am not really sure what I think about this. I'm sure you're all on tenterhooks for my considered take at a later date, ahem.


Thursday, 10 August 2017



I really want to write, but I am devoid of thoughts, intelligence, sense, motivation, up to my eyeballs in translating song lyrics (which is brain-meltingly difficult and makes me want to smash my face into the keyboard like an angry confused macaque) and it is August, my worst month of the year, so I divide my time between (i) deciding my life is wasted, unsustainable and a failure; (ii) manic tidying and (iii) whispering "fuck everything" into the void. Things usually perk up by around the second week in September, it just has to be endured.

I am going to write something every day between now and the start of our holiday (Weds next week) pour me changer les idées. It'll be a numbered list at best, let's not get too excited.

1. Livestock

Grim times. Ouipette is finally home (€280 later), fashionably emaciated, but surprisingly not showing any particular sign of psychological trauma from his lengthy vet stay. The only lasting symptom seems to be that he now needs to shit quite literally twenty five times a day. It is costing me a fortune in dog shit bags. Unrelated woe: he is NOT enjoying the stormy weather, thus:

Worse times, though, for Hillary, who suffered a vent prolapse (don't google it), which I treated carefully with expensive out of hours pharmacy haemorrhoid cream, gentle washing in a weak solution of cider vinegar, isolation and prayer until the avian vet was in Brussels. An egg was extracted from her (I maintain this was not the cause of the problem, just her normal egg, she had been laying fine post-prolapse) at eye-watering expense and her prolapse reinserted, yes, it was just like Yorkshire Vet but nowhere near as cheerful/scenic/feel-good. I was to take her back to the vet the next day for follow up. I put her in a cardboard box to take her to the vet, put the box down to lock the front door and there was a terrible squawk from within the box. When I opened it, Hillary was dead. It's terribly sad and mysterious. I'm keeping the €110 egg. I might have it gilded. This is what chicken care looked like over the past couple of weeks:

2. Brussels

I went to the library to work yesterday because my concentration is at weasel on crack level currently (I told you, this song lyric thing is an actual nightmare). When I had been working for about an hour there was a sound of distant drumming from the street, gradually getting louder and when I looked up, many people were marching past, some of them parading giant papier-mâché puppets, some of them in Napoleonic costume, some of them waving tree branches or twirling flags, one of them an actual horse. Of the thirty or so people along my bench/work area, only me and one other woman even looked up at this display. Here is a giant cat:

which I subsequently found out - thank you Twitter - is Caou, who is supposed to commemorate some kind of weird post-famine wave of northern European 16th century iconoclasm culminating in a cat being shut in the tabernacle of a northern French parish church? No, me neither. However, this picture of the original cat giant is both terrifying and wonderful in equal measure.

3. Family

This is the single week of the over 2 months of summer holiday when both my children are away. Am I taking full advantage of it? Am I fuck. I am doing all the things detailed in the introduction above, in utter silence. Son 2 (Ardennes) texts occasionally to detail his injuries. I have had one text exchange with Son 1 (Alpes) when he finally got the money we forgot to send away with him.

Me: Finally! So what are you going to buy? Your grandmother was concerned you would buy drugs.

S1: We can go to the shop tomorrow. I don't think the local Spar sells drugs.

Me: You never know. Maybe some special mountain grasses.

S1: A nice herbal tea.

Me: Brewed by a friendly marmotte.

I haven't heard from him since. I have scanned the photos uploaded by his "camp" but he figures in none of them. Maybe he's been adopted by a family of marmottes.

If this is a taste of my empty nest future, it looks to be mainly composed of gin, pulses, wistfulness and tidying. There are worse kinds of old age, I suppose.

Friday, 28 July 2017

I have opinions

Animals I have unfollowed on Instagram

1. Bald guinea pig (cutesy accessories/positive affirmations )

2. Capybara (bit boring, too many attempts to sell me socks)

3. Tiny pony horse dance training (preachy, with a side order of veganpreachy)

4. Giant pig (turns out I’m not that into giant pigs)

5. Damaged goats (too much drama)

6. That racoon who is friends with a dog (dunno, it just wasn’t doing it for me. Nothing they said to each other really worked for me, you know? WHAT IS YOUR MOTIVATION TOFFEE)

Animal accounts I continue to follow faithfully and with a degree of joy and yes this is in order of goodness

1. meagletrainer
So Many Capital Letters And Emojis Guys. Such Mystery. And yet, he has solid weird bird and giant fish action that fills me with love, intense puzzlement and joy. If you aren’t following meagletrainer, you are missing out on the essence of animal Instagram. I miss that pelican he used to have though.

2. arc4raptors
“Avian reconditioning center”. I mean, come ON. Quality raptor based account, with interesting scientific information as well as top notch hawks.

3. ojairaptorcentre

4. This Girl Is a Squirrel
For the weird, asmr style squirrel fur stroking videos which soothe the lizard brain.

5. kpunkka
Not all animals, but all amazing.

6. zsllondonzoo
For loyalty, but also for excellence and in hope of appearances from Mr Wu, the giant salamander. Or the tortoises.

7. weratedogs
I know it’s actually a hedge fund in disguise or something, but I like it, ok.

8. evpcambodia
An infrequent but deeply pleasing poster of retired Cambodian elephants enjoying just being elephants.

9. choochoocharlies/neville jacobs
I think both these dogs belong to Marc Jacobs? Possibly? The pics are good and the captions non-annoying.

10. jc_wings
All birds, no filler. They're good birds, Brent.

11. avianrecon
Some birds. Birds are awesome says Allison. She is not wrong. Allison, that most recent picture is not a bird though.

12. birdsbrussels

13. whippetsinwool
Highly specific occasional amusement

Conclusions for animal accounts wishing to retain my patronage: 

1. No positive affirmations of any kind

2. No drama

3. Do not tell me what to do

4. Captions should be either genuinely funny, SCIENTIFIC-slash-informative or meagletrainer. There is no other way.

5. No cats.

6. Birds are always ok.

Obviously I am not including or opining on personal accounts which are heavy on pictures of pets (several of which I follow and enjoy) because that is a whole other ball game.

Am I missing out on Instagram animal greatness? I feel like there must be good farm stuff I am missing. More normal goats. Some splendid hens? Fill me in.

In other news

Ouipette is still sick at the vet's. My life has lost all meaning. Send him your good thoughts. He will greet them with utter disdain.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

I have actually done some things actually

1. Tried and failed to get L’s passport renewed

This meant a futile day trip to London, which, although a total failure as far as its intended outcome went, was not wholly futile for the following reasons:

- Gail’s Bakery cinnamon bun

- Lunch at Roti King with M

- Purchase of books (Plot 29, The Outrun, at last after 700 insistent recommendations)

- Potter round Liberty

- Spotted this excellent language school rucksack:

Utter exasperation is definitely what I want to convey when I name my language school

- Bizarre return journey partly spent in company of woman eating approx 8 hard boiled eggs and occasionally nibbling at a WHSmith bag full of samphire, only tolerable thanks to 2 x TRAIN GIN.

2. Two trips to Paris on child-depositing/collecting missions

On trip 1 I walked all the way from Montparnasse to Bastille, stopping off to stare into cake shops, take pictures of Saint Sulpice for my friend F and Parisian dogs and Garde Républicaine horses for myself

 Also ate Berthillon ice cream and said hi to my book in a PACKED Shakespeare & Co. Very satisfactory.

On trip 2 I had at least one child with me the whole time, but forced child #1 to Boulangerie Utopie (“this is pointless”) for amazing curried sesame baguette (YES AND SOME FLAN WHAT OF IT), then forced child #2 down into the Catacombes (“how long will this take”). He was actually fine with it once we got there and we had a jolly time, trying to speed past a very pompous tour guide intent on explaining The Middle Ages and Death to a large group of people who just wanted to take skull selfies.

Trip 3, final, is this Friday. Trying to see the Hockney at the Pompidou, avec ou sans enfant, plus a scavenger hunt through whichever bakeries haven't closed for the summer.

3. Went to an exhibition

Bastarding Hokusai at the British Museum was full, after being CLOSED on my previous trip to London (I am furious about this), so not that. But I did go and see Fabulous Failures in Brussels and it was weird and quite cheering. Recommended.

4. Received the following PR emailed offers I will not be taking up

- Jeans you can sleep in
- Follow in U2’s footsteps
- Discover your inner goddess (nope, we all know she's this one)
- Take your pet on a luxury spa break (I could be tempted if I could take a tortoise)
- Swim across Windemere

5. Dog drama

Spent the day chasing around after multiply explosive upset stomach dog with kitchen roll, bleach, Marigolds and gritted teeth. Then in the evening he got worse, so I had to carry him down to the vet. He has stayed there overnight but she said she’d call if it was anything terrible, so it looks like it will prove to be a ruinously expensive bug/something gross eaten off the street. Knowing how unhappy Ouipette looks at the best of times, you can imagine the unspeakable misery of it all.

This was taken just after he came up 4 stories specifically to be sick on my office floor, then left again. He got even sadder as the day went on, poor Ouipettte

6. (Reason for post) 

I have updated the reading page for June. Generally good! Many highlights!

7. I can't believe I forgot this one

I was on the radio! A man from the BBC called when we were on holiday in Spain and asked if I could be amusing about boring holidays for a minute or so. Apparently I passed that test, because they recorded me talking about boring holidays from our boiling hot Spanish cupboard, between the many chimes of the many church bells. I haven't dared listen myself, but if you are so inclined, it's towards the end of this hour, I believe. My dad managed to find it and declared himself "deeply hurt" by his characterisation. I didn't even tell them about the time he locked me and my brother in an outhouse in the Dales without our shoes and with only a decomposed bullwhip and some mildewed Encyclopaedia Britannicas for entertainment because we were annoying him so much.