Thursday, 31 July 2008

Brain meme and frightening photos

Nobody loves me

Everybody hates me

But! Instead of going down the garden to eat some worms I am going to do a craft project for you. Wouldn't you like that? You would, wouldn't you. This morning, I was struck and amused by the tableaux presented by our bedside tables.

The Jaywalker's:

Yup, that's:

The eagle eyed among you may have noticed a pair of violet shoes nestling in the first photo. Yes. I replaced them. The bank manager is just putting my cards through a special shredder as I type. No, I do not know why there are pigeons on a tea towel beside my bed. I just like it.

And the CFO's:

Yup, that's:

Really, cliché just isn't in it, is it. But I swear I photographed as I found. Well, I moved an old cup of tea off mine. That's why you can actually see wood in one spot.

So this started me off on a frequently visited train of thought about how very different we are, blah blah blah. I was planning a post on our internet 'favourites' at one point (him: house insulation, hi-fi equipment, fires, types of seaweed, jobsearch, tortoises. Me: well, you know. It's all on here innit. Pretty stuff and clever writers). But! Instead I thought I would draw our brains. Eh oui. Moreover, if there is anyone still reading this nonsense I am setting this as a meme style challenge! Your summer project is to drawn your brain and blog it. Anyone out there with some felt pens and spare time?

So here is mine:

And here is the CFO's:

And what part of brain 1 appealed to brain 2 and vice versa is an eternal mystery. Possibly brains were't involved at all...

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A mighty fin

I am having a trying day. After an exhausting night dreaming of smoking crack and dismembering chickens whilst a sadistic mosquito toured my hairline, eyelids and inner ears, a day on the corridor of ennui, where none but the most dedicatedly insane interns remain at this point in the year, is more than my half baked flesh and blood can stand. Not even the Net à Porter sale has managed to raise my spirits. And the small part of my mind that is not on a Panamanian beach with Wentworth Miller is thinking about fish.

I am wondering what went on in the fish tank in our absence. On the surface all looks calm, and the survival rate is astonishingly high given they were left alone for two weeks without sustenance (I know, I know. I had a fish feeder lined up alright? But it fell through and I spend two weeks agonising). However one fish has vanished without a trace. There is nothing left of it at all. Nothing, I tell you, nary a fin.

In my head I am imagining a cross between Finding Nemo, Alive and Scott of the Antarctic. A tale of solidarity, self-sacrifice and cannibalism, when ordinary fish become extraordinary. Soon to be a major motion picture featuring:

Citron and Banane

As the selfless hero and his devastated beautiful partner (I am thinking Wentworth, obviously, in a breakthrough cinema role as Citron, and maybe St Angelina as Banane)


The Don Corleone of the tank. A brooding, powerful presence. I'd like Michael Gambon.

The Pontipines

Light relief in an unremittingly dark situation. Full of human (fishly?) frailty and humour. Maybe voiced by the actual Pontipines.

The scenario needs fleshing (ahem) out, but I am thinking something like this:

For three days, all continues as normal in the fish tank. But by day 4 a murmur of anxiety is going around the colony. Teeny tiny pontipines whisper to each other. Citron and Banane weave close to the surface looking out for signs of human activity. Hoover gets on with hoovering the murk. Féroce, whose heart is black as his fins are lavish, stays hidden in his understone cavern, brooding.

By the end of the first week, the tank is in a frenzy of hunger and anxiety. A deputation of teeny tinty pontipines goes to seek out Féroce in his understone lair.

TTPs: Féroce! The humans are gone! We have lifted all the teeny tiny stones in the tank and sucked all the nutrients off them. Hoover has eaten all the slime. What shall we do? We are all going to die!

Féroce, waves his fins languidly for a moment. The teeny tiny pontipines fall silent, waiting for his verdict.

Féroce: Aquarium meeting. Tonight, at dusk, by the pump.

The pontypines retire, in a buzz of barely supressed excitement. By late afternoon, the whole colony has gathered by the pump. The anticipation is palpable. There is a sudden chill in the water and Féroce appears. A hush falls among the assembled mass.

Féroce: Fellow fish, as you know, we face a dire situation. The humans have gone, and the food has run out. In order to guarantee the survival of the colony, we require ...




A hush falls on the gathering. No fish can quite look another in the eye.

Féroce: Who among you is willing to put himself forward for the good of the tank?

Banane senses Citron shifting a fin beside her.

Banane: Citron! Don't be a hero honey! I need you! Our eggs need you!

Citron: I have to baby. This thing is bigger than me, or you, or anyone here. The tank needs me. Tell our eggs I love them.

In mounting awe, everyone watches as Citron swims forward to address the gathering.
Citron: I'll do this thing. But I want you all to promise me that you'll take good care of Banane and the kids and I want you to make this tank a better place, a place full of hope and love.
Féroce solemnly shakes Citron's fin. The pontipines cheer.

What happens next will depend on the certification we're looking for I suppose.... But like I say: nothing. left.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Belgian quiz!

I feel like things are getting a bit blah around here at the moment. Dull, dull dull. So quiz time! But first, some politics. Eh oui.

Ok, right, so you have this little country. It is about the size of Leamington Spa (artistic licence alright? Go with me). Interestingly, about half the inhabitants of Leamington Spa country speak one language, and the other half speak another. About 4 people speak a third language but noone cares about them. The first language people really really hate the second language people. They are angry people! You can kind of sympathise when you hear language one. I mean, if you had to say slaagroom every time you want whipped cream you'd be angry. Historically though, they are angry because second language people used to own all the land and grind dirt in the faces of the babies of the first language people, or something. Whatever.

The second language people feel slightly wounded about all this hatred and want to keep speaking their language when they want and where they want. Even in the bits of Leamington Spa where most first language people live. The first language people do not want this at all. There is fighting! Of a civilised, mainly verbal sort. Leamington Spa is in dire jeopardy! It may cease to exist altogether! Why can't we all just love each other? Hmm, this is beginning to sound like the kind of turgid role-playing games we had to do at Woodcraft Folk.

[As an aside here, I have no idea why I decided to make life so complicated for myself with this 'Leamington Spa' thing. I didn't sleep well, forgive me.]

Guess what people? This is Belgium. And now we are going to have a quiz to help you all work out what kind of Belgian you are!

1. How do you get to work?

a) In my giant SUV, windows down, soft rock pumping, shades on with my blonde mane flying in the breeze.

b) On my vélo, making sure not to forget my helmet and cycle clips and a tasty organic snack in the panier

c) Work? Qu'est-ce que c'est ce "work"?

d) Tin opener, submarine

2. How do you relax?

a) I go to the sauna and then have inventive sex with my muscular husband. Sometimes we smoke a little dope.

b) I tend my allotment and weave hemp bags on my handmade loom. Sometimes we smoke a little dope.

c) I retire to my country estate and shoot things. Sometimes my younger son brings me peculiar herbal substances that he insists are good for relaxation. That is pleasing.

d) Dancing polka with my lobster friends.

3. You're getting ready for a big night out. What do you wear?

a) Something tight, white and blingy. Always some leather. Leather is sooo sexy.

b) My best pair of loon pants with the tie-dye detail. Nice comfy sandals. A colourful turban.

c) Oh, you know, the usual. Ceremonial robes, medals, sash. That kind of thing.

d) Grapefruit. Sweden. Squirrel.

4. What's for dinner?

a) Witloof

b) Chicon

c) Chicon

d) Spade tractor brown clarinet

5. Complete this sentence: "For me Belgium is .....

a) Dead. An irrelevance. We must burn its corpse and dance on the ashes.

b) A nice place to buy organic vegetables and raise a grubby semi-feral family. If only those angry Flems wouldn't keep shouting so much. Keep the noise down guys! I can't hear my nose flute!

c) Mine, all mine.

d) Toothbrush.

How did you do?

Mostly a - You're Flemish! Goodness you look cross. But also rather shiny.

Mostly b) You're walloon! That's French speaking, non-Belgians. Crazy word, crazy people.

Mostly c) You're Albert II, King of Belgium!

Mostly d) You're famous Belgian surrealist Réné Magritte!

Ceci n'est pas un blog.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Version française

"You can stop speaking English now*" says Fingers, witheringly, as if it's some kind of affectation on my part. "We are not in the Ile de Wight any more".

Noone in my family seems to like English. I am not even sure I like English. Since discovering my school's stash of Elle France magazines at the age of 14 (odd, I know. It was that kind of place. They gave a prize each year for best decorated egg cup and we had yoga classes on Wednesdays) with their shimmering promise of a world outside North Yorkshire filled with esoteric beauty products, brooding men and assymetric haircuts, I had to escape, to no longer be English, and devoted my life not becoming as un-English as possible. So far, so good. The CFO and I have always spoken French with each other. His English, whilst serviceable, is extremely unsexy, and peppered with management speak. I do not need to be told that there is insufficient resource to manage the lunch issue by my conjoint. "Qu'est-ce qu'on mange ma calinette, le frigo est vide" is just much nicer, somehow. If I had to speak English with him, I don't think we'd have survived 6 months.

The eurospawn are hilariously French, and I love it. They look like they have escaped from a Cartier Bresson photo (no sign of my genes there); play pétanque with great seriousness, give good shrug, and when they open their mouths, this perfect stream of French comes out, to my hand clapping glee. Again, again! It's like having someone else's children, but I am allowed to do all the stroking. Lashes in particular, with his honeyed skin tone, enormous brown eyes and long legs appears to share no genetic material with me at all. He's like a vastly expensive exotic handbag that I can't believe I'm allowed to touch.

I put my hands up here- mea culpa. I have been weak, inconsistent, and generally crappy about maintaining their English. I do speak English to them, but I don't switch to English to talk to them when it's all four of us together. English has become the language of telling off for them, because I just can't get the necessary stern tone in French. It's just too sultry. I don't force them to watch English TV. They don't have any English friends. As a result, Lashes talks with a perfect London accent but is hard pressed to form a whole sentence. He speaks French rather like I speak Spanish - with a handful of nouns and verbs with indiscriminate endings, and no prepositions. Fingers - already a man of few words - sounds like Inspector Clouseau on Temazepam.

Of COURSE I know this is actually a Bad Thing. My children must speak English, language of the free world, language of Shakespeare, language of large salaries and successful careers in the financial services sector allowing them to put their aged parents into the superior sort of retirement home where we will be fed and bathed occasionally. It would, I can quite see, be a shame if they could no longer ask the Bearded One searching questions about whether whales' teeth are made of wood, or if they could not read 'Would you rather', or watch Mars Attacks. And there are some words that just have no translation, or that I love the sound of and want to share. Baleful. Sardonic. Fattybongo. Spode. Ferret. Skinnymalinky. Slart. Feck. Manky. Spong. (Yes, I know that strictly speaking many of these are not actual words, but they form part of my daily vocabulary nevertheless. Maybe not Spode, but the others). And I want to share jokes with them, and cultural references. I want them to understand why the CFO says "Go on go on go on go on go on go on go on" when he makes me a cup of tea, or why my family say "up to a point Lord Copper" for no.

So I plough on, trying to speak English to them, feeling like Joyce Grenfell most of the time whilst they stonewall me with repeated cries of "Arrète maman!". I am occasionally rewarded with the odd single syllable utterance, but only if I am offering something pretty special, like a giant Pokemon coated in Haribo or a bag full of lizards. We have devised a mutually entertaining game of finding words and phrases that the CFO can't pronounce and making him say them. "Dis 'big wide mouth frog', papa! Dis 'through'!". I don't know if it's helping.

But perhaps all is not lost. Posh Mum told me that when she took them onto the pier they said to the man in the dodgems "She is not our mother" disdainfully. A whole sentence (albeit a rude one).

Any ideas people? Bribery? Blackmail? A Skybox? Answers on a shorter Oxford English dictionary....

* You should assume that all conversations with my children reported on here are in French unless otherwise stated.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

No more sand

Goodness, darlings it's good to be back.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Sand Part III

For Violet it's hedgehogs. "They move too fast" she says.
The Space Cadette shares a house with a soil enthusiast and his is mouths. He has to shut his eyes to brush his teeth and cannot watch anyone else eat.
A colleague of my mothers used to frequently faint when faced with the sight of toilet bowls. She had to back into the cubicle.

For me it's sand. Sand. Walking on it, touching it, wet or dry. The feel of it between my bare feet and my sandals is especially bad, and worse than anything, worse than death, pestilence, disease, war is wiping wet sand off my children's feet. I'd happily pay Robert Mugabe to do it.

I demand a radical redesign of the seaside. The sea can stay. Even the sand can stay. But between the two, I require a smooth strip of cement with a self rinsing plunge pool AND foot dryers. And sand free people to give me sand free garments and shoes, or to wrap me hermetically in cling film and carry me across the sand back to my car, which they will have hoovered free of the demon sand.

This is the ultimate parental sacrifice for me - building s*nd castles. Accepting a s*ndy child on my shoulders where it rubs its s*ndy hands all over my face in an amateur version of microdermabrasion. Washing s*nd out of clothes, buckets, baths, shoes. Eating s*nd, naturally. And then, at the end of a loooong s*ndy day, having a shower and lying down in my bed on a fine but definite layer of s*nd.

Damn sand.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Sand Part II

Ok, so the story is, I am stocking up on kitchen roll and cereal. Don't tell anyone I am down a sinister alley in Newport feeding my addiction, ok?

The coastal road on this sunny July day gives a view of sparkling sea, little boats and unfeasibly fluffy candy floss clouds. Inevitably, debate in the car turns to death.

"I like dead things" muses Fingers, a propos of nothing. I wonder what has prompted this. Possibly the dramatically thrashing death throes of the lobsters barbecued by Posh Family last night. Lashes, who witnessed their demise in full, went to bed awed, muttering "reflexes.." under his breath. Possibly they overheard the previous evening's phone call from the Bearded One where he set out in five concise bullet points his minor heart attack and eleventh hour angioplasty whilst blithely assuring us that he was now fine, in better health than ever, but that if he had hung around for an hour or so more he could very well have been dead. (And as an aside, if anyone can tell me what the appropriate response to this is, please tell. I was a bit flummoxed.)

We reflect on this briefly. Lashes follows up a few moments later. "Why does God let things die?"

Where the fuck did he come from? We're a strenuously rationalist bunch. The Space Cadette (accidentally) bought Lashes and Fingers an updated version of Noah's ark recently, set in the Gherkin, and I felt compelled to change all references to God to "a horse". Maybe I missed a few? I'd blame the in laws but they're fairly apathetic in such matters too. Anyways.

Intent, in some half-arsed way, on giving a balanced view of the various theological models for death and afterlife, I start out with "the people who believe in God think that you go to somewhere nicer when you die. So that's ok for them". Fingers and Lashes look quizzical, presumably imagining what such a thing could consist of. Weapons, Fruit Shoots, endless droning Pokemon cartoons and many many small scaly creatures?

The CFO cuts me off. "But we think nothing happens at all. You just die and there is nothing after that. Because otherwise there wouldn't be space for all the new people."

"Yes, that's right" I say, ever mindful for the need of mutually supportive parenting, ha ha ha. "But" I add, keen to add a more upbeat note to proceedings (it is the holidays after all, I would hate to think my rural-induced nihilism is contagious) "just think how few people you know who have died! Almost none if you don't count animals!"

"Grande mamy will die soon" opines Fingers

"She might" agrees the CFO (she is ninety five) "but she might not." Crones in his family tend to stagger on haranguing their offspring for longer than anyone can still imagine. I cannot imagine she'll let go until the whole family Calvados reserve has been bargained against visits and kisses and lavish attention.

"What about your maman?" says Lashes. "She died and she wasn't old."

"No darling, you're right. But that was an horrible horrible accident and that almost never happens. You mustn't mustn't worry about accidents."

We contemplate that a little longer.

"I will not count her" concludes Fingers "That doesn't count".

It shouldn't count, he is right. It shouldn't even happen. Instantly, unbidden, the thought of their lovely uncle, my brother, and his bastard inoperable brain tumour floats across my consciousness. But that shouldn't happen either. So we just won't let it.

"Dead things like dinosaurs" says Fingers.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Sand Part I

The Isle of Wight. A seagull pecks a KFC Zinger to death in the Spar car park, Sandown pier boasts "the last remaining full-sized doughnut machine on the Island", dark clouds gather over the moulting six bird penguin colony at the animal encounter park, body parts from a collection of fibre glass dinosaurs are left to decay by the side of the road and a 107 year old woman in a neck brace at the beach hut cafe serves us our ninety eighth portion of chips in four days with repeated injunctions to check our change.

I think when we turned down the second gated track I realised that my fear and loathing of the country was going to prove a particular challenge this summer. And so it is proving. Left to our own devices in a converted barn plastered in interesting geometric patterns by a particularly challenging outsider artist, fifteen miles (I HAVE COUNTED) from the nearest shop, with forty chickens for company, my thoughts have turned rapidly to death, nihilist philosophy and the internet. I feel like I am part of a low-rent social experiment devised by Channel 4 where a family from 2008 are returned to 1976. There are 3 channels on the TV, food is confined to potato derivatives, jokes and novelties revolve around large breasts and obesity and I am having to use a washing line. The Space Cadette, who has dropped in to shame us all with her 'swimming in cold water' mad skillz was particularly impressed with her "Mediterranean Vegetable Panini" filled with chips, a green bean and 6 cubes of tinned carrot.

The sunny days are sort of ok, apart from my sand phobia (of which more later, assuming I get to escape again). But today, as the heavy grey cloud cover reminded me of every holiday I went on between 1980 and 1991, I have felt myself overwhelmed by the heavy existential despair that used to fill all those summer holidays in rural punishment zones. I pace around the barn like one of the mangy tigers in the Isle of Wight zoo with a sulky expression on my comically wind beaten face, trying to entice the family out to little avail.

Lashes and Fingers are seemingly able to derive infinite entertainment from a semi-feral cat, the chickens and four sticklebricks. "Come!" Lashes commands the cat in his pidgin English "We have box of tuna! For you!". Days out hold the dizzying prospect of a trip to the pier, a sort of child nirvana of slot machines, dangerous looking rides and dour fishermen beating mackerel to death with their bare hands. There is a seemingly endless supply of small novelty items at around the £1.50 mark to whine for.

The CFO is ensconced in a chair with his third glass of rose and a copy of "Island Life" magazine dating from 2002. They all look at me bemused as I try and coax them out to anywhere where other human beings might be found in concentrations of more than one per square mile. Eventually I was forced to whine and sulk and huff continually for 20 minutes until the CFO gave me a one hour pass to come here, to commune with you, lovely lovely internet. Hello! Help me!

It is not all bad. In fact a lot of it is wildly funny. I teach Fingers and Lashes the best ways to drive yourself insane with those penny pushing machines. The Space Cadette and I have lots of fun comparing notes on what seaside tat we particularly crave. We are complete suckers for a nice shiny arcade and souvenir shop, a reaction to our puritanical upbringing. She liked the bottles of different coloured sand, whereas I always went for the tiny creatures made out of seashells. I try and explain to the CFO my huge pride in finding a whole full english breakfast rendered in seaside rock. He looks blank, more so perhaps when we explain that this is rock made out of brightly coloured sugar, not stone. "Don't you do seaside tat in France?" we quiz him. He is unable to think of a single nasty souvenir item in all his years of camping on the Normandy coast. "Not even slot machines? Those 2p pushing ones? What did you DO?". It transpired mainly he played Flipper and kissed girls. Ha! An important sociological discovery is made. The difference between English and French adolescence, discuss...

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

If the CFO sees this I am DEAD

I blame the Non Working Monkey. It is all her fault.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Bad holidays

1. The island of Eigg in the scottish highlands, summer 1988. thirteen years old, on an island of 14 inhabitants. 1 shop/tea shop (4 types of cake, 3 types of pottery sheep, post cards, fudge), 1 phone box. Boat once a week. A house without electricity. No tv. Battery powered radio tuned to radio 4. Only my family for company (mum, prog rock stepdad, 3 year old sister). Constant drizzle. TWO WEEKS. I know I've mentioned it before, but seriously, is this not child abuse?

2. Rome, August 1995 with the CFO. We arrive on 15 August with our journey to a small hill town all planned out. Transfer to another station, take a regional train out into the hills, take the frequent bus service up to the remote hill town. Except, not on August 15th. The Festival of Assumption. We wait 5 hours for the train. When we reach the destination there are no buses. Just, none. We ask an old man who is sitting on a bench near the station if there will ever be any. He just laughs. We start walking (it's about 20 miles) with our large bag for our 10 day holiday. I write the name of the village on the back cover ripped from a book with lipstick and we hold it out folornly as we drudge ever upwards. There is no passing traffic. We eventually get a ride about half the way in a Fiat Cinqecento, weeping with gratitude, but the last 7 miles we are on our own. The heavens open. It pours. Although we do not realise it at the time, it will not stop pouring in all the time we are there, an unprecedented period of bad weather in Rome in this season. We visit more churches than either of us has ever seen, to keep out of the rain.

The remainder of the holiday pans out like this: I shave the rest of my remaining wispy hair off (it started falling out about six weeks previously). It feels like defeat. The CFO and I fight bitterly every single day and it feels like we have reached the end of the road. Sometimes we throw stuff at one another to spice it up a bit. We make each other cry a lot. It rains so much that the postcard sellers in Rome are all selling umbrellas. We have to buy one, and some jumpers. We have a really really shit time.

3. Isola 2000, March 2000 I learn to ski! Isola 2000 is possibly the ugliest ski resort known to mankind, and this is saying something. The town centre is a series of windowless concrete corridors with soggy carpet and empy retail units. It is apocalyptic. We are staying in a hotel that is a shrine to 1976, resplendent in orange and brown. Even the food is all orange and brown. Everything in the bedroom is synthetic, so that both of us are so charged with static electricity that when we touch anything we get a painful electric shock. This is of course very romantic. Ha. For months afterwards I automatically pull my jumper over my hand when I touch a door knob. As we lie in bed at night, the bedspread and carpet give off a sort of luminescent static glow. It is eery. Learning to ski is frightening and very humiliating. I spend much of the holiday on my arse, getting tearful. The CFO's dad believes that shouting the same thing repeatedly at me will help. It doesn't. There are only three slopes open since all the snow has melted, so everyone in the resort is on them. I hunch, paralysed with fear and swearing quietly, at the top of each of them as insanely quick teenagers swoosh past me sniggering and the CFO's dad shouts incomprehensible stuff at me.

4. Avoriaz, January 2006. Not having learnt my lesson in Isola, we decide to take Lashes and Fingers skiing. They are 2 and 4 at the time. We stay in a small studio appartment with the CFO's parents and it snows ALL WEEK. It takes about an hour to get the children into all their snow gear and about an hour to get them out of it, but once outside, they get freezing cold and cry to go back in within about 5 minutes. Lashes does about 2 minutes of one ski class and hates it, which sort of buggers up our plans. We wander around the tiny appartment banging into each other as the CFO's parents do Sudoku. There is nothing at all to do in Avoriaz except ski, which is pretty much out due to the weather. On the odd occasions we do ski, however, I am permanently terrified because the visibility is zero and the CFO and his dad go off being macho, leaving me to whimper and judder down some hill with no assurance that they are at the bottom of it. Everyone goes to bed at about 7 because they have had enough of each other.

5. All of my summer holidays age 12-17 in remote parts of the UK, with only sheep for company. I particularly remember Ardnamurchan, staying in the house of a demented man with a collection of ancient gramophones who wandered the garden in his pants ("out of respect"). Really, I have never known boredom like it, and I have been to law school.

What's your worst?

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Group therapy part III

Ok, so if you recall, I have gifted you a group of crazy people and we are exploring ways to make them better. Today, we will try cognitive behavioural therapy. Yay, rock n roll!

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy is essentially school for crazy people. It feels exactly like school - slightly dull, effort intensive, exercise-based, with homework you have probably forgotten to do, and the ever-present danger of being picked on to answer a question you don't understand. There was even a white board, with diagrams, and you had to bring a notebook and pencil.

You entered the room with dread, as if for double maths where you really hadn't begun to grasp quadratic equations and had spent the evening fantasising about Nathan from Brother Beyond and eating Twixes instead of doing homework.

Round the circle Cardigan's gaze would go. Unlike school, it was best not to stare down at your feet and try and look traumatised. Whilst it scares teachers, therapists love it. The best thing is to look sort of neutrally into the middle of the circle, whilst avoiding too much eye contact. The expression you are aiming for is medium pensive to unhappy. Inevitably on your least well prepared session, Cardigan would alight on you.

Cardigan: Jaywalker, what was your homework?

J: I didn't have any.

Cardigan: Are you sure?

J: Oh yes, very sure.

Cardigan: Just let me check in my notebook. Yes, here it is. You were supposed to be writing a list of trigger points for anxiety and suggesting ways to deal with them, then doing some role play. How did that go?

J: It made me too anxious. I had to go shopping instead.

Cardigan: Group, do you have anything to say to Jaywalker?

Teenagenihilist: I really don't see the point.

Fagbreak: Can I go outside for a minute Cardigan I reeeaaally need a break.

Cardigan: You know the rules Fagbreak. You can't just leave Group once the session has started. It disrupts the dynamic.

Fagbreak: But I left my Nicorette on the ward!

Cardigan: I'm really unhappy about you doing this Fagbreak. Can't you wait a little longer?

Fagbreak: This is fucking stupid [shoots me a look of hatred].

J: I don't mind! Fagbreak can go!

Fagbreak: What are you saying, Jaywalker? You don't think my contribution helps? Fuck you man.

Paranoidmummy: I feel Jaywalker is being very aggressive towards me. I don't feel safe here.

IdontknowwhyI'mhere: I don't know why I'm here. I told my GP I had earache.

Earnestandannoying: Jaywalker, I feel like you're not really engaging with the process. I can feel you shying away from the painful emotions. You need to really stop behaving like you're above this whole process so you can really begin to, you know, heal. Also, I think your body language is suggesting you're not really in the group today.

Footballerswife: What did you buy?

Cardigan: I think we should draw a diagram to see if we can explain to Jaywalker how failing to deal with the root causes of anxiety is making the problem worse.

[scribbles strange circular diagram with lots of vectors on the whiteboard making it feel even more like double maths than before]

Can you copy that down Jaywalker? And do you have anything to feed back to the group?

J: Um, yes. Thanks for your feedback, group, it was very helpful. Sorry about the body language and all that. I got a couple of tops, Footballerswife.

Friday, 11 July 2008

Group therapy part II

Ok, so you have a group of crazy people. No, I don't know why you have a group of crazy people, maybe you were really bad in a previous life, maybe you give off some high pitched sound that only crazy people can hear. Who knows, it is immaterial. Stay with me.

Some of them are depressed, some of them are paranoid, some are anxious, some are alcoholics, some are angry and some believe they are not crazy at all, they just have a special piece of toast in their shirt pocket that talks to them. Now. What I want you do do is put them in a room with a bunch of other crazy people. Make the room sort of dingy and without natural light. Ban all food and drink from the room, and also smoking. Provide hard plastic chairs in a circle. Place boxes of tissues on the floor at an ominously high frequency. Then get them to tell each other how they are feeling. Insist that total honesty is essential. Get them to "feed back" on each other. WHAT A GREAT IDEA.

I mean, really. Who thought of this, exactly? I am sure the Space Cadette could fill me in on the theory and genesis of group therapy (SC - comments box plse. Enlighten us) - did it evolve from Ten Step programmes? Was it a bunch of psychiatrists having a laugh? I can sort of see a couple of potential benefits:

1. keeps the crazies off the streets and away from firearms/drugs/Topshop;
2. enables the lesser crazies to feel relieved they are not as bad as the greater crazies;
3. makes everyone want to get less crazy to escape from group therapy.

And given that the efficacy of anti-depressants is currently in serious doubt (not that I believe this at ALL. If it's just placebo it's absolutely excellent placebo and I'm all for it), I suppose one might conclude that it is better than nothing.

Better than nothing, yes, possibly. But can it really be better than, for instance, taking the crazies for a walk in the park? Getting them to make animals out of vegetables? Showing them pictures of dogs with wigs on?

I did two different kinds of group therapy; 'weird' and Cognitive Behavioural therapy (subject of a later post).

Clearly 'weird' must have had another name, but I don't know what it was. Psycho dynamic? I Don't know. I was crazy at the time. Anyway. This was the kind of therapy that Irish ran. It was a bit like walking across a minefield, drunk, on stilts. Unpredictable, explosive and frankly insane. So, if there was a guy sitting in the corner picking at his face until it bled and rocking back and forth muttering, he would be the one Irish would alight on first.

Irish [with supernatural calm, like a man on horse tranquilisers]: Ballofrage, I sense that you need to bring your chair into the group so that you are fully present. Could you do that for me? I'd like you to sit back and really connect with the chair and feel its reality. Everyone, I'd like you all to really connect with the chair too, feel it against your spine, feel it grounding you.

Ballofrage: Fuck fuck fuck I can't deal with this fuck fuck.

Irish: Do you think it might help, Ballofrage, if we started with you this morning?

Ballofrage: Everything is so fucking black. I look at you all and I just see death and decay and hate. I just want to be dead and I want you all to be dead.

Irish [unfazed] Ok, Ballofrage, what I'm hearing is that you are having a bad day. So I'm going to ask the group if they can all feed back something to you that they think you could use today to get through this difficult day.

Ballofrage: Those fuckers?

Irish: Littleoldlady, could you start us off?

Littleoldlady: [nervously] Ballofrage you seem very sad.

Ballofrage: No shit, Littleoldlady.

Egomaniac: Irish, why are we starting with Ballofrage AGAIN. I feel like Ballofrage is totally dominating Group and I really have some stuff I need to talk through today, I have had a very difficult conversation with my father about my trust fund and I need to feed back. Ballofrage, I feel you are just totally monopolising this Group. You are not the only one with issues you know.

Ballofrage: Egomaniac you spoilt little slut, I did not fucking ask for this.

Irish: I think you both need to remember the rules of Group. This is about sharing how you feel and supporting each other, not about labelling each other in such an unhelpful way. Ishouldntbe here, what do you think?

Ishouldntbehere: I have no idea what is going on. Who are all you people anyway? I only have earache. I really don't know why my GP sent me here. It is not helping the earache at ALL.

Irish [becoming more animated]: But do you not think, Ishouldntbehere, that the earache perhaps represents something in your life? Like, perhaps, you feel that you have had enough of listening to others and you need to really be, like, heard, for once in your life?

Ishouldntbehere: It started when I fell off that banana boat in Lanzarote. I think I might have a perforated ear drum.

Fagbreak: Can I go out for a minute Irish?

Irish: You know the rules, Fagbreak. If I let you go it disrupts the dynamic of Group.

Fagbreak: What about if I feedback to Ballofrage, can I go then? Ballofrage, I feel you might need some weed.

Ballofrage: Hash makes me angry.

Irish: People! I feel like the energy is dissipating! Can we all just move our chairs a bit closer and take a minute to really connect with this moment? Jaywalker, could you tell us how you are feeling?

J: Scared.

Irish: I hear that you are scared and I would like us to explore this emotion for a while. Can you tell us a bit more about this fear and how it feels?

J: It feels sort of scared.

Irish: What do you think this fear is. Are you scared that you won't ever feel better?

J: I am scared because Ballofrage is pointing at me and making throat slitting gestures.

Ballofrage: Bitch!

..... and fade. Repeat at twice daily intervals until someone cracks.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Revelations, signs and portents

Volume One of the Tedium Files falls off the desk onto my foot, breaking one of my high and shiny Chloé heels right off. What is this - Tedium 1, Fashion 0?

I discover from ParisGirl that Kiki, the giant Seychelles tortoise, is male! My world rocks on its axis. I loved Kiki and spent lots of quality time with her (him!) in Paris, where I was busy being extremely miserable. It used to take me all my strength and nearly 2 hours to get all the way across Paris with a pushchair, a two year old and a 6 month old baby on the métro with a change (Etoile to Bastille, then Bastille to Gare d'Austerlitz. It sounds so romantic doesn't it? But for me it just means stairs. So. many. stairs.), but it was worth it. Kiki lives in the Menagerie at the Jardin des Plantes, which is an amazing and ancient institution, a tiny zoo in the heart of Paris, opened in 1795. It always held a particular attraction for me since reading a strange and compelling article during my degree called "And they ate the zoo - gastronomic exoticism in the siege of Paris", all about how they had to eat all the animals during the Paris commune in 1870. Elephants, giraffes, everything. Yes, people write whole articles about this kind of thing. This one is seminal. Honestly! As well as Kiki, it features the shaggiest afro horse on the planet, two crocodiles so consistently immobile that most people assume they are stuffed, and some rather sweet monkeys. Think what you like about zoos, I'm fairly ambivalent myself, but it was a day out and it made a change from having my outfit sneered at by the nannies in the Parc Monceau while being chased off the grass by a man in uniform.

Kiki himself is 120. I always imagined her (him!) as a sympathetic older (like, 100 years older) woman, who had seen it all, done it all, and would share her (his!) wisdom with me. A surrogate grandmother figure, if you will. Little did I know she (he!) is in fact a deviant sexually compulsive male whose mind was in fact on shagging everything with a shell as I silently communed with her (him!). One hundred and twenty years old and his libido is still undiminished; I am sort of awestruck, but also appalled.

("Nice ass" thinks Kiki "I'm gonna get myself a bit of that fine shell. Yeah baby, come on over here I got something for ya")

Kiki. What kind of name is that for a male tortoise. Though when I share my shock with the CFO he tells me that Kiki is slang for a penis. Who knew? Not me, clearly.

The window of Hermès is filled with colourful turbans. But every time I venture out to take their picture it rains. The turbans are shy. I persist. The picture is rubbish. But then, so are the turbans.

We discover yoghurts in our corridor of tedium fridge that are over 2 years past their sell-by date.

A pair of abandoned pants appears outside our front door.

What can it all mean? Nothing? Yes, you're probably right.

I am on my holidays for the next two weeks, internet. After lenghty negotiation, the CFO has conceded that I am allowed 2 trips to an internet café per week. However, we are going to the Isle of Wight, a place so firmly anchored in the 1950s that computers have not actually been invented there, so this may be easier said than done. Do drop by occasionally though, as I have scheduled a few treats in my absence, like an neurotic supermummy with a freezer full of nutritious meals in tupperware tubs. If anyone wants to pop in to collect the post and feed the tortoises they are most welcome.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

What children?

You may be wondering - no? never mind, we'll pretend you are - what has become of Lashes and Fingers whilst I have been sampling the delights of cheap British confectionery and wandering around London like an escapee from a sheltered housing project. Have I perhaps lost them somewhere in a fit of wine-induced absent-mindedness, like the violet shoes? Sent them up a chimney? Set up a sweatshop in the cave? No indeed not. Not this time. Nike rejected our last batch of shoes and the soot tangles up Finger's curls something rotten.

No, they are with mamy and papy, the Sudoku champions of Haute Normandie for an extended dose of heavily boiled vegetables, fresh air and spoiling. I get sporadic updates in the form of surreal echoing phone calls.

Papy: Bonsoir Jaywalker , je te passe les petits.

J: Hello darlings! How are you?

L: I have an enormous flint.

J: Oh really? That's good, isn't it?

L: It is bigger than an adult's foot and only slightly smaller than Papa's head.

J: Goodness, that is large. Is it pointy?

L: Yes very.

J: What else have you been doing?

L: Me and Fingers have been doing lots of bêtises all day and Papy has been making gros yeux. Oh! Fingers is cutting his socks up! And mamy is making gros yeux! I am just going to put you on my plate now. [clunking noise as phone drops]

J: Hello? hello? hello? Lashes, are you there? Can you give the phone to Papy?

[..... many minutes pass. There is lots of strange background noise] HELLO? IS THERE ANYONE THERE?

[just as I am about to hang up, I hear soft breathing]

J: Fingers, is that you?

F: ........

J: Fingers?

F: ..... I cut my socks up.

J: Oh, Fingers, why did you do that?

F: For the elephant trap. Lashes made an elephant trap and I fell in it.

J: Oh, ok. Any elephants in there?

F: No. Mamy cut my hair though.

J: [trying to suppress panicky tone] um, really darling? Is it very very short?

F: No, she just cut all the curls off.

J: Do you look like a sheep?

F: .......... [long pause for reflection. Glaciers melt, civilsations wax and wane, slugs take over the universe and subjugate humankind to their will] ..... No. Sheep have curls.


F: I had bread.

J: Great!

F: and carrot

J: Mmm!

F: and ham

J: Lucky you!

F: and ketchup

J [wearying slightly] delicious!

F: and .....

J: yes, angel?

F: ....

J: ....

F... potato.

J: Wow, what a great dinner!

F: and a pear

J: Right darling. Shall I blow you some goodnight kisses now?

F: and half a compôte

J: Excellent!


F: I ate all my potage

And so it continues, for several more hours, with long, Pinteresque pauses. Sometimes the telephone is just abandoned. I think most evenings I end up lost behind the sofa or in a plant pot while something more exciting happens.

It is strange without them. On the one hand, the mornings are a sensuous pleasure dome of uninterrupted showers, reading books and drinking whole cups of tea while they are still warm. Evenings hold the dizzying prospect of conversations on a topic other than Pokemon and grown up tv, or even - gasp! - going out. The CFO and I are quite overwhelmed by our freedom and have long since run out of conversational topics. We are reduced to poking the tortoises even more frequently than usual and squabbling.

On the other, I do miss them terribly. I miss being able to just grab Fingers as he scurries past and demand kisses and sniff his lovely soft neck with its downy hairs. Or carrying his slack lazy four year old weight upstairs as he idly slides his long cold fingers down the back of my top. Even Lashes, who has become tall and angular in total defiance of his genetic heritage can still be persuaded to fold his pointy limbs into a cuddly shape on my knee now and then and to allow me to stroke his velvety cheeks and feel how bony he is becoming. I miss our long stints à trois sitting in the loo.

Soon I will see them again, and they will be taller and slightly remote, peculiarly dressed in each other's clothes and Mamy's charity shop bargains with their socks pulled right up to their knees and they will smell like the scratchy mildewed nano-towels Mamy and Papy specialise in. Also they will be much better at washing their hands and using knives and forks and napkins. And I will have to prod and poke and sniff and stroke them like a wild animal until they feel like mine again while they impatiently chorus "WHERE ARE THE PRESENTS WHERE ARE OUR PRESENTS GIVE US THE PRESENTS".

I can't wait.

Monday, 7 July 2008

In which I give myself spots in the interests of fearless reportage

What could be healthier and more appropriate for a recovering bulimic than to taste test 5 different kinds of new cheap chocolate? Indeed, nothing. So on with the testing!

Mars bollocks, sorry, 'Planets'

God, these are pointless. They come in three varieties - 'crispy' (a sort of limp wafer), 'chewy' (caramel, but not in a good way) and 'boring' (the nougat bit - it had a proper name but I am damned if I am fishing around in the bin to find it). The ratio favours 'boring' way above the other varieties. After 6 successive 'boring's and one 'chewy', I felt overcome with ennui at the thought of putting another one into my mouth to try and find a 'crispy', but I persevered, such is the extent of my dedication. It was not remotely worth it.

1/10 Revels but without an upside.

Peanut butter KitKat Chunky

This was invented by some kind of sick genius. On initial opening, the smell of peanut butter is enough to put you into anaphylactic shock. Then you put it in your mouth, if you dare. Initally I thought I really didn't like it - it made me feel soiled. But I found myself going back again and again to try and put my finger on just what I didn't like. And soon there was very little left. It makes you feel dirty. Really dirty. But in a good way. The peanut butter is extremely salty, and the KitKat chunky is a KitKat chunky. Put them together and you have a sort of bastard love rat of a chocolate bar that will abuse you, use your phone to call sex chat lines, tell you you are ugly, sleep with your best friend and leave you overwhelmed with self-hatred. About 30 seconds after throwing the remains in the bin the revolting aftertaste hits you. It is the taste of SHAME I think.

8/1O Toxic genius.

Creme Egg 'Twisted' bar

Twisted indeed. Oh yes, the Girl with the Mask was right. This is just piss poor. The best thing about it is this picture, which makes it look unfairly appetising. It is waaaay too sweet and the ratio of chocolate to goo is all wrong. Take something wonderful and fuck about with it why don't you. Shame on you, Cadburys.

0/10 You don't mess with the Creme Egg. You just don't. OK? Ok.

Dark KitKat

This is the chocolate equivalent of a decaf skinny latte. The chocolate haters' chocolate bar. I mean, really, why bother. Have an apple why don't you? It sort of made me want to cry at the idea of some sad Prufrockian individual considering this the height of decadence.
I even tried the "York special" on it to see if that would help. It didn't. (York special = bite the chocolate off both ends of a stick of KitKat. Place one end in cup of hot tea, other end in your mouth. Suck. Mmmm)

2/10 Why sweet Jesus, why. If Chris Martin was a bar of chocolate, he would be this one.

Pret Love Bar

Léonie, this bar is yet another reason why I love you. So much deliciously fudgy and granular caramel in one place! It just shouldn't be legal should it? Are the pumpkin seeds and oats supposed to fool me into thinking it is healthy? Each oat is coated in enough butter to sustain a family of four for a week. Heresy though - I think I would like it better without the chocolate. But that may be due to the rest of the 'dégustation', which is starting to feel a bit like aversion therapy for chocoholism. In a minute Paul McKenna is going to start whispering in my ear that I don't really like chocolate at all, and that every time I look at chocolate I will think 'snail poo', or something.

9/10 Just wonderful. I have deducted a point because the wrapper says Sally Clarke is involved in taste testing it and she is based in Notting Hole. But she obviously knows her caramel, dammit!

The things I do for you, internet. I am going for a little lie down now.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Hard living

"Every July, Charlie and Caroline Gladstone and their six children, Jack, India, Tara, Xanthe, Kinvara and Felix, decamp from Scotland to France for a summer of bike rides, badminton and campfires"
Easy Living magazine, July 2008

If I had made that up, you would have thought I had gone over the top, wouldn't you. I have copied it VERBATIM.

All magazines for my age group make me dry retch, and yet I buy them with weird fetishistic regularity. I think some part of my subconscious is planning to launch another title in this already saturated market of identikit horrors. I have drawn a number of conclusions from my recent studies which are helping me to target my market with total accuracy. Read on.

1. Women in their thirties and forties cannot cope with titles of more than three letters. Red, Eve, She... I suppose they are too busy having it all. My new magazine(s) will be called 'Hag' (possibly to be followed in my stable of publications by 'Buy', and 'Gin' and 'Why').

2. Women in their thirties and forties (this will need to be abbreviated. let's just say 'WTFs') all wish to jack their lives in and get new ones. So features are always about WTFs who have been ballbreaking career women and they decide to give it all up to run yoga retreats in Goa, or stay at home mums who use their experiences to identify and fill a crucial gap in the market for handstitched, fairly traded, appliquéd, organic whatever the fucks.
Or, option three, WTFs who have a breakdown/medical crisis and then get better. These ones are always photographed looking soulfully out towards some stretch of water with their arms wrapped around them in some Toast catalogue woolly. This is WTF mag shorthand for "bad stuff happened but I have wisdom now".

'Hag' will feature pieces with taglines like "I would like to do something with my life, but I really can't be arsed" or "My family has drained all the life force out of me and I am a spent bitter husk", or indeed "I have to keep doing this god-awful job because magazines have made me believe handbags and shoes are the key to happiness and now HSBC owns my soul".

3. All WTFs without exception believe they have a novel in them. Magazines must feature novelists who have started their career relatively late but are now best-selling and fulfilled and all the rest. These women get to pose sitting in their sun-filled conservatories looking pensive in front of a lap top.
I think Hag magazine could helpfully include a section called 'No, you can't' which would feature embittered penniless unpublished authors brandishing their rejection letters in squalid bedsits. It would be a public service.

4. Since, inevitably, the WTFs cannot ALL change their lives and become fulfilled through the medium of selling French antique bed linen or becoming best-selling novelists, most of the rest of the magazine must be filled with stuff you can buy to fill the void.
WTF fashion must be described as "beautiful and wearable". It is obligatory. If you are in a WTF fashion feature, you better like neutrals, florals, and looking soulful. Expect beaches. And subtle metallic stuff. Bronze and whatever. Or tweed in the winter, and big old pine trees in a big old foresty thing. You get the picture.
Hag magazine could give you aspiration pictures of ready meals and new brands of gin. Maybe control top hosiery.

5. WTFs love: Jamie Oliver, Farrow & Ball, Whitstable, picnics, Cath Kidston, Mini Boden, farmers markets, Cornwall, ribbon, Kate Winslet, Emma Bridgewater, book clubs, linen, Nigella, France, country cottages, stripes, ballet pumps, anything 'local'. Ruddy cheeked children collecting apples in wicker baskets. Gardening.
Hag magazine readers love: Gin. Sleeping. Shouting. Gin.

6. There must be a dreary section on happiness and fulfilment. You know, your children's laughter, the smell of earth after a summer rainstorm, your husband's furry ears, galloping on a deserted beach, possibly painting pottery. Emphatically not handbags in this bit. Which smacks of internal contradiction, since the rest of the mag is crammed with essential stuff to buy, but as we have established, generation WTF cannot hold more than one thought at a time so they will never realise this. Cunning!

We at Hag magazine will not hold out the prospect of happiness, but maybe we could have a 'schadenfreude' section where we get to enjoy others' misfortunes. That might be mildly cheering.

7. There must be a section on food, or wrapping stuff, or tidying stuff or decorating stuff that claims to be "made easy". This relies on an extremely liberal interpretation of "easy", so if hand stencilling your children's initials onto your homemade sausage rolls with edible food dyes you have made from your own homegrown beetroot is your idea of easy, then this will be right up your street. 'Easy', 'simple' and 'Save time' are trigger words for WTFs apparently. At Hag magazine, we know exactly how to do easy and time saving - just don't bother. Really, don't. Step away from the icing bag and pick up the corkscrew.

8. People who are allowed on the cover: Liz Hurley, Kate Winslet, Yasmin Le Bon. Stick to these. Hag magazine cover stars: Margaret from The Apprentice. Every month.

9. Hags can NEVER have too many beach bags/shoppers. Circulation drooping? Couldn't get Kate Winslet this month? Give them another bag! Magic.
Hag magazine cover mounted gifts would be mainly miniature bottles of spirits. And crisps.

So what do you think? Do I have a winner here? Can we brainstorm some ideas?

Not that tired old filler again

Hello my darlings,

Brussels has given me its habitual surreal welcome back. There are five tortoises in the sink and we have just witnessed a 'Ladies High Heel race' on Avenue Louise (they were rubbish, I could have beaten them in my excruciating Louboutin patent fetish heels if someone had placed a nice cake at the end of the track to motivate me).

So we are going to do some number crunching today. Because I met a whole bevvy of hedge fund managers last night and that did not at ALL make me feel stupid. No indeed. Goodness, they look like normal people but then they open their mouths and Martian comes out. But I can do numbers too! Watch and learn, poppets.

Number of hardened commuters who offered me their seat on public transport over the past three days: 3

Number of different outfits I was wearing when this happened: 2 (damn you, shapeless internet shroud dress, and damn you ridiculous fifties skirt that is supposed to give me a waist). I AM NOT PREGNANT. But thank you for the seats.

Number of times I fell over in Frith Street in FitFlop attributable incidents: 2

Percentage of dignity lost in falling over: 120

Outfits packed that covered ensuing enormous graze on knee: 0

Number of times the CFO appeared behind me ominously like a particularly sombre store detective to pry useless tat out of my fingers with a silent shake of his head (especially in the Magma store! I must move in there instantly. In fact, I am just going to sign my pay cheque straight across to them and cut out the middle man): 5000

Number of years the Bearded One mistakenly added to my age when attempting to guess it: 4. Cheers, papa.

Number of times I allowed the Bearded One to call Jack Johnson 'Jack Jones' uncorrected without having to go into the wardrobe to scream into a pillow: 35

Number of nearly naked centurions with spiky silver fetish helmets spotted on Saturday: 15 or 'not nearly enough' as I think we can all agree. The picture is rubbish sadly. I think I was a bit over-excited.

He looked nice too I thought.

Number of straight people at Hampstead Heath Rufus Wainwright concert on Saturday evening: 2 (Violet's mum and dad)
Amount this made Violet and I laugh: a lot

Number of pounds a Whole Foods 125g yoghurt costs: that would be 6 of your British pounds. Lorks a mussy. Dick Van Dyke would not approve.

Pounds saved on buying magazines in WHSmith by buying an unwanted extra paper (60p) and unwanted extra packet of sweets (£1): 3. Ok, at this point I gave up on my fledgling number crunching career. "Trust me!" said the cashier, with manic zeal in her eyes, so I did. It made my head ache though.

Number of times served by my favourite mad sunglasses wearing cashier in Liverpool Street M&S ("GOD BLESS YOU DARLIN' WHAT IS THAT? A WHAT? A CUCUMBER? WATCHA DO WIT DAT DEN???" Marianne, do you know the one I mean?): 3 (noone else dares to go to her till so it is always empty. If you can cope with searching questions on your diet and income, and also on salvation theology)

Celebrities spotted: 0.05 (Jefferson Hack. Meh.)

Number of times I was permitted to witter "I LOVE London, I MISS London" before being beaten to death with a die cast Beefeater figurine: 100000000

I will write something more interesting soon, but I have to go and bleach the sink now. Give me your numbers!

Friday, 4 July 2008

Notting Hole

The Bearded One lives in Notting Hill. And before you ask, no, he is not an oligarch or a hedge fund manager or an exiled royal. He has been there since the days when dinosaurs roamed Holland Park. Actually, who knows, perhaps they still do, along with the abandoned guinea pigs. Oligarch's kids probably have pet triceratops. Not that this is any excuse for staying, in my view. He should have moved somewhere grittier when the bankers started arriving. I would harangue him about what a class traitor he is, but my mouth is usually full of Hummingbird cup cakes or Whole Foods organic swan burger, so biting the hand that feeds me is out. But I am still full of the moral superiority of one who was dragged up on the mean streets of, um, York.

So. Notting Hill. I hate it with the heat of a thousand suns. Why are they all so PRETTY (not the Bearded One)? And so blonde and so shiny and stylish and well-dressed (again, not the Bearded One)? Is it not enough to be rich beyond my wildest dreams, they have to be genetically blessed too? I realise I have probably got the sequence wrong here - their top prize in the genetic lottery wins them a fund manager. Whatever. They stroll around with their trilingual gifted children like a terrifying master race in Tod's flats and Orla Kiely sundresses. I swear, I am not even part of the same species. When I walk past those streets full of gorgeous pastel stuccoed mansions, I feel like I should scurry along in the gutter and tug my forelock in deference, ducking to avoid a glancing blow from the passing Birkin bags.

Then there are the overheard conversations which make me want to give myself an amateur lobotomy with a plastic fork.

- Yah, I tried the early morning Kundalini class a few times but Rafaella kept putting the wrong Goji berries in Isolde's porridge so now I've swapped to Katrina's matwork class at 10:30, and then I go for a deep tissue with Sven. He's AMAZING. Can I get you another soycino?

- Are you in town this weekend? We were supposed to be going down to Babington House, but Flora and Archie just couldn't miss the School Fair, so I've sent Gabriella down to Ottolenghi for some nibbles for the cake stall. Yah, Archie is doing a Japanese recital with the rest of the infants. Will I see you at the farmers market tomorrow? Or shall we meet up for juice at Toms? They have some really gorgeous new season stock in Matches..

- Hurry up and finish your edamame Mungo or you won't have time for your sugar free popsicle before Mummy and Me yoga!

Jealous? Yup, abso-fecking-lutely. Notting Hill - here's hoping it gets eaten by a stray T-Rex. But pass me that gluten free fairy cake first.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Step away from the crumpets

I am still in London. It is still great. Even fifteen fragrant minutes in someone's armpit on the Central Line has not dimmed my enthusiasm. I was in Liverpool Street this morning and still remembered how to weave and snarl with the best of them. Phew, Belgium has not made me too nice.

A number of observations on my erstwhile (you don't get to say that enough, I find) home town:

The manufacturers of cheap chocolate, ever attentive to my novelty seeking ADHD personality, have continued to innovate. Creme egg bars, people? Mint Chocolate Oranges? Gourmet KitKats? Pushing the boundaries, Nestle. Thinking outside the box. I approve. I am planning to purchase, photograph and comparative taste test a large selection on my return to Belgium, so that is something for you all to look forward to, no? Any recommendations, UK dwellers?

Dancing in front of fellow Londoners was a bit like dancing in front of my oldest and most mocking friends and sneery siblings (my siblings are NOT sneery, but if I had a slightly older brother I can just imagine how he would stand and laugh at me). Embarassing and stilted. I feel like I can get away with enthusiastic and inept grooving in Belgium but here I felt like everyone KNEW I can't dance and never dance and was thinking 'What. are. you. doing. Stop it, you look ridiculous.' Yes, I am paranoid and over-intellectualising, but I was definitely inhibited. Admittedly Jack Johnson is not the danciest of music either. He was very lovely though; impeccably punctual, tidy and polite, with his towels neatly aligned just as Violet had promised me. Rock n roll! I am mocking, but it was great. The sun shone and he was excellent, and sang a lovely song to his wife about her mobile phone falling in the loo. We've all been there haven't we.

I am having to fight my desire to basically purchase all of London, put it in a million carrier bags and bring it back on the yurostar. Not just the obviously lovely things like Marks and Spencer yoghurt or Fresh Pink Jasmine scent or Benetint. Everything. Falafels, socks, Hula Hoops, mangoes, stationery, twelve pound boxes of cereal from Selfridges (yes, really. I had to give the CFO cardiac massage when he saw that), pan scourers. I feel like, if I can just cram enough tat into my bag, I will be bringing a bit of London back with me, and maybe I can nurture it and make it grow into my very own micro London to keep in the back yard. 'Look!' I can say to guests, 'There is the tiny prostitute offering blowjobs to commuters in Elder Street! And there is tiny Boris being kicked in the head by a gang of tiny hoodies! And there is the tiny number 52 bus mounting the pavement to crush a group of Japanese tourists!'. It could rival Mini-Europe but with more grit. Yes, I miss London (though Boris is making me miss it less). Anyway, the CFO has predictably made it his mission not to let this happen and is man marking me whenever I make a break for a shop in order to stand and look disapproving and ask me WHY I think I need a robotic cockroach. He has also filled my bag with rocks.

The London corridor of ennui is filled with fresh faced summer interns in new suits. They are exhaustingly attractive and filled with enthusiasm and think the law is like Damages and Glenn Close is going to glide round a corner with that spookily immobile face and give them a riverfront penthouse. I am resisting the urge to whisper bad things in their ears. They would not believe me anyway. Instead I am marvelling at the ready availability of Tetleys tea bags and REAL MILK and drinking tea until my bladder explodes.

And on that delightful image I shall leave you my chicks.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

In which wine is probably to blame

I am in London! But I am also very very sad.

We'll start with London. Firstly, a snippy yurostar journey with the CFO. I am the kind of low grade eurodrone that doesn't get out much; consequently a trip on yurostar is a whole world of cosmopolitan joy to me. The CFO does this several times a week and has his routine finely and, dare I say, OCD-ly honed. First he tuts as I scrabble for my passport, his whole body exuding impatience. The passport officials have already greeted him like a family member only just stopping short of kissing him on both cheeks and waved him through. Next he tears off in the direction of the lounge. 'The lounge'. Even the word sounds decadent doesn't it? Honey voiced naked women massaging cocaine into your temples. Roasted swan. Harpists. Unicorns. I scurry after him behind the mysterious doors. "I'm with him" I squeak as the clothed but indeed honey voiced ladies greet him with genuine warmth. They stare at me with thinly veiled hostility. The CFO is theirs, apparently, and they are not inclined to share with a midget in red shoes. The lounge is indeed a paradise, if a lesser one, of small pastries and magazines and boxes of muesli and beer and other free stuff. I stuff everything into my bag, including the Dutch magazines and rosehip teabags. The CFO reads his newspaper and pretends he has never seen me before.

When we get on the train twenty minutes early to sit in a very exactly chosen location, the CFO hands me an article on internet addiction from one of my purloined magazines and gives me a pointed look. I take his pointed look and raise him an eye roll. We spend the rest of the journey bickering about logistics.

London looks wonderful. There is heavy cloud cover and a light coating of filth on every surface gives the city the patina of grime I love. The yurostar arrives at 9 so I am immediately thrust into sweaty rush hour tube with barely time to check out the 'pet of the week' in Metro. I am smiling like an imbecile to be back, which has the added benefit of making commuters edge away from me. On arrival, the Barbican tunnel is looking particularly fetching with streaks of exhaust detritus on the beige plastic panelling and puddles of wee. Just as I remembered it. I skip through it as if starring in a 1950s musical comedy only just remembering not to kiss strangers or tap dance. Soon there will be Marks & Spencers and Heat magazine and capuccino and Boots. I am in London. It is great.

Next the sad.

The sales started yesterday in Brussels and never one to stand aloof from collective hysteria, I went along. The pair of violet Ferragamo sandals I had reluctantly left behind when I bought their geranium coloured twins were sitting on the shelf glinting at me and singing their siren song:
"Take us, Jaywalker, we are yours
It is meant to be
Fifty percent off
Buy us buy us buy us"
Yeah, well they are shoes, they are not good at rhyming. But their argument was compelling so I did.

And after that I went to meet Zoe for wine. I can't link to Zoe's blog, by the way, because my work firewall thinks that she is filth. There was wine, anyway, and there were peanuts and a joke about a dog and an exploding SUV and it was lots of fun and then at some point there was no bag. No bag with the singing violet shoes. No shoes! Shoes stolen! Or lost, or gone in some way. And now I can't stop thinking about the poor lonely shoes.
"Where has Jaywalker gone? Doesn't she love us any more? Why are we hiding under this market stall with this scary sweating man in a shellsuit? What did we do wrong?"
And while I am making light of it, I am in fact very very sad. So there.

Though perhaps I got off lightly, since Zoe mentioned that when she went to see James Brown in concert he died almost immediately after. I am alive!