Monday, 20 October 2014

40 days Pt 2: In Your Prime

You had some excellent ideas of forty things I could write about, but they sounded hard and requiring of thought and applicationOf course, the problem with this forty days thing is that you are not always in an articulate and reflective mood. Or indeed most of the time. Or, perhaps, ever. Today I have been on a 3 hour public transport trudge, given a TRULY APPALLING careers talk (I thought it was just a chat! It was a proper talk! Well, obviously it wasn't the way I did it, but it should have been) and also got into a fight about guitar lessons (middle class fight club, this).  Reflective mature wisdom 0 : shouting in the street 1.

In more relevant news, I have just finished reading this, which is out on Thursday.


I was very much pre-disposed to enjoy it, partly because I think India Knight can make any topic appealing (I actually burn with desire to buy all the beauty products she recommends and I mainly exfoliate with my own tears and a stick. In another life, she'd have been absolutely amazing in advertising) and partly because, thrillingly, I am in the acknowledgements, having given my expert advice on (i) wigs and (ii) eyebrows. But even if I weren't, it was a very jolly (well, maybe not the dementia and vaginal withering bits) and appropriate read for me at precisely this point. Before reading it, I thought it would be more of a style and beauty guide, but it's actually a cheery kind of guide to life in middle age, by turns briskly prescriptive, very funny and full of joy. It is mainly, and evangelically, about enjoying things and the bliss of small domestic delights, but not in a moony self-help way. What better message could there be?

However:

New neuroses spawned: Feet 
Awful things may happen to my feet once I turn forty and ceaseless vigilance is apparently required. This is problematic because my feet are already genuinely revolting, full of bumpy, deformed, gnarled horrors. I might just have to cut them off at the ankle.

Existing neuroses reinforced: Teeth
I knew they were bastards and I knew it would only get worse. This confirms it.

Danger of turning into 'Hampstead Lady': ever present
- Grey Louise Brooks bob
- Shapeless, genderless, artfully folded Japanese garmentry
- Birkenstocks or brogues
Quite honestly, I aspire to look this put together, but it is beyond the pale. No five armed hunchbacked black shrouds from the Liberty Japanese Weirdness Room. No massive glasses. No angular jewellery. Step away from Hampstead Bazaar.

Insuperable problem: colour
"Black looks absolutely awful on almost everyone"
"Grey is the colour of fog, pigeons and mice"
This is 98% of my wardrobe out. Remaining: an Issa dress that looks like one of those Magic Eye drawings and probably only covers one tit now, since it was bought at Maximum Insanity point. A one shouldered Jaeger red dress, also bought in a fugue state which I will never, ever wear. Something blue and a bit cheap looking with a grease stain that is impossible to get into due to complex layerage and whose belt I have lost. I need to do something about this. Without spending any money.

Frightening revelation: guinea pigs




Anyway, it is highly recommended.

My friend F on forty: "It had been the worst six months of my life and it was about to get even worse. Nadir of my life. Anyway. Forty. Worst birthday ever."

Do please continue to share your crappy forty stories.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

40 days: part 1

I am forty in forty days. Since one should never let a potential gimmick go unexploited on the Internet, I am going to try and post on every one of these forty days.

I am not going to try and detail forty things I have learned in my life so far. I quite enjoy reading those posts, but at this point in my life, if I am clear about anything, it is that I know pretty much fuck all. Nothing. I mean, I can make a béchamel and drive (badly) and sing Happy New Year in Mandarin. I can iron a shirt pretty well, but I could do that when I was 14 and I really don't have the chest for shirts. Beyond that, it's all grey areas. I like the idea of arriving at forty in a state of serene and purposeful sorted-ness, but barring some kind of miracle, it seems unlikely.

I thought for a while about doing forty regrets or forty mistakes, which I could definitely muster, but it seemed a bit of a downer. Then I thought I could do 40 things I still want to do, but jesus, the pressure. Imagine that list staring back at me in 5 years time with only 2 items ticked off ("make a coffee and walnut cake", perhaps, and "own more than two pairs of tights without holes in"). How depressing would that be?

So I don't really know what I'm going to do. Post something halfway interesting, I hope, without the crutch of ups, downs or percentages. Is there anything in particular you'd like to read? Do not fear, I am not giving up funny for forty days, like some kind of hideous lenten penance.

As for today, my father came to visit and tonight we had steak-frites and too much wine and a ceremoniously flambéed tarte tatin in Brasseries Georges, where the average customer age is 80 and they are all very cheery despite varying levels of infirmity. It is thus the perfect place to feel good about your advancing years and the salvation of creature comforts and he told me again - as he did when I was at my very lowest (so far! There's always time to sink lower!) about how when he was forty everything was shit in his life. I love this story, it's the adult fairy story I never tire of hearing. All is not lost! The losing dice are not tossed, the bridges aren't all crossed. Maybe in 30 years time I too can have okapi petting privileges?

Now I have to go to bed because it's late and I have to give a careers talk tomorrow. Shut up, I can hear you laughing. Sssh. I know all about careers.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Some Reasons I Should Not Go Out

1. Age and its attendant increase in irascibility and decrease in inhibition is turning me into a public transport vigilante. I am irritated beyond all reason at the insistence of the commuters of Brussels on standing in a bovine fashion in front of the opening doors of buses, trams and metros, thereby impeding the egress of other passengers (me) and slowing the whole process down (I remember my friend B complaining about this when he lived in Brussels, so at least when I am setting my eyes to 'murder', I can think of him and smile). So irritated, indeed, am I, that I have started telling them to get out of the way. Seriously, people, you live in a capital city, albeit a very small one. BEHAVE. It would only take another couple of journeys in sub-optimal conditions for me to resort to shoving. I know, because I have previous with this, having once - heavily pregnant - lightly kicked a man on the platform at Liverpool Street. I can't really remember the circumstances or what had angered me (hormones), but he turned round and gave me a massive shove in the chest and then I went all "HOW DARE YOU HIT A PREGNANT WOMAN" on him, which was a bit unfair given I had started it. Oh god, I was a horrible, horrible person when pregnant. But even un-pregnant, I should apparently avoid public transport.

2. I started crying at a busker today. She was playing known tear-jerker Ne Me Quitte Pas (albeit quite erratically) on a violin, but I have also started to well up at accordions and even the man with the horrifying violin/trumpet hybrid, though that is through despair not sentimentality.

3. I have not lost any of my crazy person attracting mojo.

4. Outside is expensive. Especially because I have a tendency to buy unreasonable quantities of cake regardless of available disposable income (none, currently) just because I AM OUT and it must be celebrated.

5. If I go out in the car (ugh), I spend the entire journey in abject terror, partly because I have mislaid my driving licence so if anything happens I am in the shit, and partly because I AM A TERRIBLE DRIVER. Not dangerous, just dithery and pathetic and easily freaked out. Yesterday a policeman tried to make me move the car (they were filming a film at the hairdresser's!) and I pretended I couldn't drive and told him he would have to move it for me, hahahahahahaha. Shit.

6. Bad things happen, such as the terrible, awful meal we had last weekend from which I am still suffering (pretty sure it was One Legged Street Pigeon Yassa, not Poulet), or being scared rigid yesterday by mentally disturbed horse Cartolino and his enduring terror of doorways (Horse lady: why are you going slowly, go faster Me: I AM VERY SCARED. This basically encapsulates all our exchanges this autumn). NB and wholly unrelated, there is a horse at the stables that is actually called 'No Name'. Someone has a sense of humour.

7. Key incidents.

8. Outside is cold and rainy and I am stiff from full body terror on Cartolino and crampy from the Pigeon Yassa and I like inside. Inside has hot water bottles and Yorkshire Gold and you'd have to go a hell of a long way in Belgium to get a  Yorkshire Gold teabag and even if you did find one, they would have sat it in a too-small goblet of lukewarm water on a tiny metal tray with a speculoos and a tiny plastic pod of Belgian Millac Maid.

Reason I should go out:

I have watched a succession of soul-shrivellingly bad romantic comedies on Netflix, culminating in the shame-sodden (both participants and viewer) 'What To Expect When You're Expecting) and also because I cannot really remember how to speak to someone to whom I am not related.

Tricky.

You? Out or in?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Up your blowhole

Wot wot.

Down:

I can't leave the skin at the corner of my mouth alone and now my face looks like a festering mass of corruption for NO REASON except that I can't stop pulling at my dry skin. There was nothing wrong with it in the first place! I have created a festering mouth problem through sheer neurosis. I have just made it bleed again whilst typing this and am mopping up the blood with a green Post-it like some kind of savage.


(God, I look rough. That picture is an exact representation of my mental and physical state)

My younger child has a bad back, which is a strange ailment for a ten-year-old and has been up in the night pleading for Calpol (see haggardness/grey skin tone of above photo) and required 3 days off school, which in turn has meant much more catering than usual ("er, we've got .. bread? And this old kale I bought by mistake") and wall-to-wall repeats of Gadget Man. I have been fretting with increasing intensity about him and today took him off to see an orthopedic specialist. It did not help much, though he had an x-ray and nothing is broken, so there's that. But it still hurts and he is very much not himself. I no like.

Filling yesterday. Awful, though it started with a very gentle injection, so mad props to the tiny dentist for that. He is one of those who works in utter silence, which is generally my preferred option (informed consent, hell no thank you, please treat me like a malleable halfwit), but in this case made for a couple of unnerving interludes where he would do something, then sit for a minute in utter silence, during which I assumed he was contemplating some catastrophic error he had just made.

The combination of the two things above mean my limping finances are now ready to be put out of their misery with a swift shot to the head. Yes, some of it will eventually be reimbursed in this nirvana of socialised medicine, but until then, who the fuck knows. Gruel?

VAT deadline = am surrounded by horrible scraps of paper and looking for many more missing scraps of paper and wondering where I put that paper file into which I put all the pieces of paper with which I simply did not wish to deal. This is my favourite so far:


Eh? Stoppache? 

I am harbouring Work Resentments and am now exhausted by a chestful of bad feelings.

New idiot tortoise is still not eating. I put her in front of likely tortoise foods daily. Nothing doing.

I had to lend L the proper camera today for a school project, due to him waiting until five minutes to what-the-fuck-why-haven't-you-left-yet o'clock this morning to tell me he needed one. I am TERRIFIED he will break or lose it.

I got into bed ten minutes ago (it's 15:39) and this really cannot end well.


Up:

Hmmm, I'm not feeling very "up", I confess. However:

Text update: "de caméra is safe and soond"

Horizontality update: I managed to get out of bed by 16:40.

Eldest child, through supreme effort of parental nagging and over-investment has managed 8 out of 10 in his Dutch test. This is quite the exploit, hard as that is to imagine.

My daft Brussels/London/Paris in a day gig was actually quite blissful - quiet trains, lovely meals, booze. My only regret was that the Eurostar put me in business class and I couldn't remotely take advantage of all the free stuff, due to already being up to my eyeballs in food and beverages. Frustrated, I filled my handbag with small bottles of water and magazines until I could barely carry it and eyed the complimentary champagne sadly. Props also to the Eurostar for serving a Scotch Egg as an afternoon snack, which my French fellow passengers eyed in much the same way as if they had been offered a battered dead mouse. I had lunch in London with a charming man off Twitter who had no apparent homicidal tendencies and declared me "not predatory" (high praise indeed) and dinner in Paris with my sister. I still can't quite get my head around the fact my sister - the erstwhile space cadette - lives in Paris and is an adult with a job. I think this is quite common among elder siblings.

Sundari at around 1 minute 20 here.

I am not especially busy and am doing useful things like reading books and thinking (ha, staring into space) instead of hustling for more work. Of course, I am temperamentally incapable of hustling for work, so I might as well make a virtue of it. I have a book to write after all (yeah, shit, I should get on with that, I suppose).

Two fun events in London in the next month to look forward to, plus a trip to Tetanus Manor at half term, mixed blessing that that is, where hopefully we will get to meet my niece and nephew's new puppy as well as whatever array of rotting carrion my father has laid on for us.

Eldest child has just spontaneously bought me a packet of Maltesers! Awwww. This might very well be the best thing to happen to me all week.


A picture

Current levels of activity:




Percentages: 

55% tired
10% oh god, so tired
10% Maltesers
10% toothpaste stains
10% tedious nagging harpy
5% limp, neglected kale guilt

You?

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

Crap claw*

Hello. It would be nice if I managed to write something more than once a week, wouldn't it? It doesn't seem to happen. I'm not doing more important things, but I seem only to have a halfway coherent set of thoughts every ten days or so. If that, frankly.

1. Dental

I have been to the dentist, which obviously, being a human being, I loathe and fear. Despite asking for my (mature, reassuring) dentist by name I yet again got a work experience dentist, but I liked this one. He was very small and neat and serious and sober and even though he spent an hour subjecting me to a variety of dental indignities which left my whole face sandblasted with tooth exfoliant, I quite liked him, to the extent that I pathetically asked if it would definitely be him when I go back next week for a filling (there's always a fucking filling, every time). It looks like I will survive this round of dentistry without someone deciding I need to have all my teeth removed and replaced with wooden pegs, which is always what I assume will be the outcome of each visit, so I am modestly pleased at having partially dodged the dental bullet.

2. Zoological

Animals in this household who are dicks:

(i) The weepette who is, as I type, transporting his food grain by grain to the rug to chew it partially, then leave it for me to stand on. And who also peed on the rug as I was carefully drying it after washing.

(ii) The rug, which although not an animal smells so strongly of wet, shitty arsed sheep, it feels like an animal.

(iii) The new tortoise who thinks she is a chicken and has not eaten anything since she arrived.


Stupid tortoise being a hen

(iv) All the fat stupid flies who have got stuck in here and cannot work out how to leave.

(v) The tiny fruit flies losing their shit because a single banana is slightly overripe. COOL IT, GUYS.

(vi) The tortoise who thinks it is a good idea to sleep underneath its water bowl.

(vii) Chickens, for undermining my anti-saxophone neighbour noise abatement strategy by being insanely fecking loud every morning.


3. Things that have been lost this week

(i) School issue swimming hat x 2.

(ii) Bescherelle (grammar guide, of which we have 3 other copies none of which are the right edition).

(iii) Swimming trunks.

(iv) All-important canteen card, €20 to replace.

(v) My temper, finally, with Brussels' surliest waitress (this is an unimaginably high bar, she should be very proud). UPDATE: This requires some clarification. When I say I lost my temper, all I actually did was say something very mildly huffy, and I'm not actually sure she even heard me,  but it still counts.

I will not enumerate the things that have been forgotten, they are far too numerous. All The Things, basically. I have decided to take the way of kindness and positive reinforcement with the above (well, not the waitress), which is all well and good and makes me feel fraudulently benevolent and calm like a smug barefoot white dreadlocked yoga instructor. The truth comes out at night when I grind my remaining teeth to stumps and dream of cadavers of which I need to dispose.


4. Impending chaos

This Friday I have to go from Brussels to London to Paris to Brussels in one day, for an article. Given my ambient anxiety levels are set to Perma-fret at the best of times, this is causing me some additional distress. For instance, I still have to find someone to have lunch in London with me on Friday, because I asked someone and they didn't reply, so now I do not know what to do. Maybe she will reply eventually, so I can't ask someone else because that would lead to awkwardness? But if she never replies, or if she says no, what will I do? Will one of you who is not a murderer whose dearest wish is to remove my face and wear it as a mask come and have lunch with me? Oh god. It's all too hard (= not hard at all for anyone with even a basic level of social function).


5. Language

I edited a document this week which had used the word "picnicking" where it was supposed to read "panicking". I think this is an excellent and desirable substitution. It was definitely the best bit of the document.

Text message from son:



That is all.

Percentages:

50% bath longing
20% alcohol longing
20% work-related testiness
10% child screen-time guilt

You?


(*I'm just sourcing these from my gmail statuses henceforth)

Friday, 19 September 2014

Mission Mildly Difficult

DOWN: 

- Got locked out and had to crawl through the grate at the front of the house, only to find - quelle horrible suprise - that there is now a second grate behind the first grate and it has a combination padlock on. Twenty minutes head first down a tiny brick tunnel trying various combinations surrounded by all the spiders of Belgium has left me with elbow abrasions, a mysterious forehead lump and PTSD.

- I got spooked riding and ended up in tears. Nothing actually happened, so I don't really know what to make of it, I just had a comprehensive failure of courage.  Now I am scared I will never get my confidence back, because I am getting older and more breakable (or rather, more conscious of my own breakability) and fear seems an ever more potent force. That is a lot of 'more' in one sentence.

Ideally, one would react to the terrors and fragilities of life by seizing every opportunity for joy and living fully and fearlessly, but I am very bad at that. I feel so anxious so much of the time, it is exhausting and unnecessary. I have had a CBT-style book called "Overcoming Anxiety" on my Kindle for about a year, but it is not helping. Its whole strategy seems mainly based around asking yourself 'what's the worst that could happen' and 'would you cope' to which my answers are "THE MOST TERRIBLE THINGS IMAGINABLE, THINGS ONLY WHISPERED OF IN THE DARKEST OF NIGHTMARES" and "HELL, NO".

It is a particular sadness in relation to the riding, because in my head this is one of the few things I am good at, but it appears I am not good at it any longer, because I just think 'fuck, I am at the mercy of several tonnes of unpredictable, flighty equine death-muscle' whenever I get on. I do still adore being around horses though (the smell, the velvety noses, the general loveliness of them). I will persist, for now, even though it is a very expensive way to make oneself miserable, because I will feel even worse if I give up.

- One of those evenings where the children were evasive weasels about homework, tellings-off from teachers and lost books, all of which came to a head at half past fecking bedtime when a succession of sorry sagas were revealed. I said things like "this is simply not good enough" and was generally a sanctimonious dickhead. Also, no one should have to multiply anything by 0,15 at 7am as we were required to this morning, thanks to forgotten maths homework.

- Due to all of the above I had to resort to gin, but the gin we have in the house must be made of anti-freeze and polonium, because it systematically gives me the headache from hell, so by shortly after half past fecking bedtime I was in my own bed, keening gently with a tisane and a Nurofen.

- I have singularly failed to do any work yet today and it is half past twelve. Oh! And now it's twenty to one because I can't think of a title.



UP:

- I managed my Mission Impossible style crawl/combination lock housebreak. So no emergency locksmith €€€€.

- Despite unwisely leaving the house for as many as two whole hours, I managed to be in for two deliveries, the bastards at DHL/Bpost must be devastated. I also drove past our front door looking for a parking space and saw a man with another parcel banging on our front door, so rolled down the window and said "that's my house". Somewhat worryingly, he happily handed over parcel in the middle of the street without even asking for my ID, which may go some way to explaining where most of my post from the past 5 years has gone.

- Both children went to the dentist yesterday and neither has any caries so I am €80 down, but at least do not have to sink into self-loathing at my poor, fruit juice and chocolate button based, parenting. I have also woman-ed up and booked my own overdue dental check for next week, which is very much a DOWN, but I am calling it an UP due to the unusual display of bravery it constitutes. Also I still have that stash of Valium from when my back gave out for when I go, which is very much an UP. NB: the dentist tutoies me. Is this pleasant informality or rude? Difficult to tell.

- In further dental news the orthodontist said that L's treatment (€€€€€€) "touche à sa fin" which I interpret as 'regretfully, I cannot rinse you for €100 a month for much longer'. He would not be more specific than that, but hopefully this dark era of the Roomba and the dog sharing whole packets of dental elastics between them will soon be over. L has been an absolute trooper about the endless ghastliness of it and I am delighted at the prospect that he will soon be free of both wires and the spectre of British Teeth, like my own.

- Netflix has finally arrived in Belgium six months after my secret squirrel UK Netflix account stopped working, so I can spend the weekend bingeing on the second series of Orange is the New Black.

- I am about to give up and go and sit in the garden and share some tremendously greasy noodles with the chickens and the dog, because I am 40 in two months and I need to stop worrying about every idiotic thing under the sun and the only way I know of doing this is by sitting outside for a while with some carbohydrates and some stupid livestock.

A picture:

I haven't taken any pictures this week so here are some disdainful giraffes from last Saturday:




Percentages: 

38% weary
20% aching
12% broken flies
10% eclair plans
10% bacon plans
10% dozing plans

You? Plans, ups and downs, anxiety strategies?