Monday, 10 November 2008

In which I invite the internet to move to Brussels

Oh dear.

I have a day off today. A "proper" day off, that is, one by myself where the spawn are at school and the CFO is not joining me to make insistent conversation about moving pieces of furniture, Christmas logistics and where the extra €500 he deposited in acccount 43 has gone and saying that 9:30 am is far too late for drinking coffee. I spent half the night dizzy with anticipation at all the fun I could have and also staying up late Just Because I Could. However so far I have:

Listened to the tortoises banging their shells repeatedly against the wall as they attempt to escape. Depressing factor of 3

Sorted out my too small clothes to send to Red Shoes - Depressing factor of 5

Sorted a mountain of socks - Depressing factor of 7

Danced around in the bedroom by myself wishing I was having more fun - Depressing factor of 8 million (the way I do it, it has)

It is already half eleven. I had better start having fun. School ends at ten past three and I have promised the spawn I will collect them rather than leaving them in the icy gulag of the after school club, where they have to knit Monsieur Le Directeur socks from barbed wire whilst singing songs of Soviet triumph in their quavering infant voices. I am a pushover for the small boy guilt trip. The pressure! I might see whether I can sneak through the 3.1 Philip Lim blouse I am coveting on my credit card - it bounced all of my 5 attempts last week, but maybe there has been some financial miracle in the interim? (Update: I tried, there hasn't) Go and see the CFO for lunch, so we can eat very fast and in the silence of people who have spent the last 15 years together and saw each other only three hours earlier? Make some ugly cakes? Sit pressing 'refresh' on my computer in the hope that someone out there is validating my existence? No, nothing seems to be hitting the spot. The 'spot' is a sort of empty, anxious spot in my solar plexus. It makes everything look overwhelming and unappealing. It makes me want to make another cup of tea and curl up in my bed and look at the blustery leaves blowing around (yes, wig #2 was not a smart choice this morning) .

I think the empty spot means I am a bit lonely (see my marvellous insight!). This 'Belgium' place is all very well, but it does not contain many of my favourite people to go and annoy or places to go on a day off. I tried so hard at first - invited people round manically, said yes to everything, even if it made me die inside, volunteered for the school fête (ha, never again), had lunch with even the dullest of my colleagues. But inevitably only a few have stuck, and even they are not the kind of friends/acquaintances who I can imagine having stupid proper fun with, at least not sincd Czech colleague and his wife went back to New York. This making friends in adulthood thing is hard, isn't it. Why can't all you people from the internets just come and live here? You are so funny and wicked and entertaining, and I wish I could play with you properly. Brussels is lovely you know, we have great healthcare and schools and marijuana is virtually legal and the beer is strong and the frites are good and the houses are cheap and beautiful and the public transport is free and highly, excitingly dangerous. I can't tempt you?

If I was in London I would be out and gleefully, dangerously caffeinated by now, halfway down a list of vital places to go/things to eat/stuff to covet and trying on 90% of the stock at Marks and Spencers at Marble Arch for the one or two hidden treasures (concealed in a mass of repulsive, purple, tassled Per Una dross) that make lots of people ask you where you got what you are wearing. I would probably be making plans to kidnap Violet and go and hide in the womblike Liberty's ground floor tea room, eating tiny tarts and trying on stuff we can't afford. If I got lonely in London, I could go and try and conquer BMF's phobia of leaving the office and persuade him out for tea, or hang out with Harvey at Verde talking about chocolate, or flirt with the waiters at Patisserie Valerie for larger and larger cappucinos, or lurk around Start listening to Brix hold court and stroking nice clothes. Or I could go to White Cube, or Mar Mar Co, or look out for Gilbert and George or Tracey Emin or the other Spitalfields celebrities. You know, just, stuff. Stuff to keep the emptyness at bay. Here, I don't have all those distractions, and even though I have all the important stuff - a home, and tortoise/husband and lovely wicked children and a soon to be part time job that pays way more than I have any right expect - the fun seems to be missing, at least in real life. It's here in abundance on the internet, but perhaps that is stopping me looking more purposefully for real life fun?

Update: The freedom part of the day is over, the children are fighting and refusing to leave the house even for waffles the size of their heads. I still don't have a team of fun and dangerous accomplices to help me get up to badness. But I do have two new dresses I can't afford (a grey jersey Vanessa Bruno thing, fashion fans, and a mental black silk shift with a huge fuck off Grayson Perry style bow), two new novels and some perfume. When all else fails, buy your way out of the empty feeling. Oh yes.


katyboo1 said...

I must see photos of the Grayson Perry thing. He is a bit of a hero of mine.

I shall try and make you a matching bag with Alan Measles on in my spare time. It will not be sturdy, or indeed much like a bag and it may only bear a fleeting resemblance to Alan but I will do what I can.

If all else fails you can use it to try and plug up the hole of loneliness.

I empathise. It's days like these that I really miss London. Glenfield Co-op is always going to have a sacred place in my heart but it's not the same.

Jaywalker said...

I still think you live in the same place as Postman Pat Katyboo.
Your offer brings tears to my eyes. I will happily email you a picture of the ridiculous bow dress, but I think that the internet is not quite ready to see it.

nappy valley girl said...

I would love to come and hang out in Brussels - moules, frites and Kriek just aren't the same in Belgo Centraal.

If it makes you feel any better, it's pissing with rain and blowing a gale here in Londres. I spent the day taking the kids to soft play (grim for me, fun for them), sorting out laundry and trying in vain to get them to watch TV so that I could email people about boring work stuff...

justme said...

Yes indeed, shopping is often the answer....TWO new dresses! I am impressed.
I often ponder on the fact that there seem to be so many funny entertaining intersting people on the internet, when I do not seem to meet so many in real life anymore. I doubt you would actually find London any better these days either.. I certainly didn't.... Alyhough admittedly, haveing plonked myself firmly down in a small vilage, it is possible that I have limited my optiond for friendship and excitement a little TOO much. But I don't think I can move to Brussels really. Sadly not. But thank you kindly for asking us all!

justme said...

Oh dear....there were a lot of typos in my comment. I am not REALLY illiterate.....just lazy and not good at typing.

zoe said...

Well Shit. You could have had lunch with me - oh, but I'm WAY too boring. I can't even lose my brolly now - the Twat left in in Limburg. Yes. Seriously.

And what is wrong with Marks and Sparks? The only shop on this planet with clothes that actually fit me??

Welsh Girl said...

There is nothing worse than a day off that you have looked forward to that then deflates horribly into a stale pile of nothingness. I can't bear it when that happens, particularly if you can't get hold of any friends to have a good moan about it over coffee (always cheers me up doing that!). Hope the shopping cheered you up though.

lisa in san diego said...

time alone at home is so rare, the pressure to enjoy it is disproportionately enormous -- i always end up smoking (which, officially, i no longer do), and then making up for the smoking by cleaning something. woo -- the excitement, it burns . . .

i just returned a bunch of my own personal plugging-the-hole-shopping items -- i love you anthropologie, but nothing fits me the way it does your [freak] models. i endorse said shopping wholeheartedly.

(love, love, love your blog. makes me laugh everyday. consider yourself -- and cfo, lashes and fingers -- invited to stay with me and mine in san diego anytime you like -- it's about 80 degrees today, clear and sunny!)

Red Shoes said...

time alone at home is so rare, the pressure to enjoy it is disproportionately enormous

Yes, this.

Wait til you are part time. You put a lot less pressure on yourself to enjoy every day alone but.. the loneliness does get a little worse unless you take action. After hurricane Katrina, every single one of my friends moved out of New Orleans. Every single one. And I was working from home, for the first time. Everyone I cared about lived thousands of miles away... still do, actually. The loneliness became stupidly overwhelming. And I lived in a bad apartment with not enough windows. It was just awful. I still have no one to go to lunch with, no one to go to silly movies with, no one to shop with. Why don't you move to New Orleans. It would be fantastic. We would be fast friends and keep each other from going crazy. Or make each other crazy. Either way, fun for every one.

The frittes in Belgium are incredibly alluring though. And waffles. And you have Ann Demeulemeester. Maybe you have the right idea.

pochyemu said...

I'll come to Belgium! I can do research and interview you over coffee and then we can eat our body weight in waffles and chips, and then we can burn them off running after free range capybaras! Then you can take me to the EU stuff so I can tell my lecturers that I've been and I'll get extra credit! THEN! New student loan = boot shopping! Nothing feels better than buying something you have 20 years to pay off! (Also, my husband doesn't even question it when I go on strange holidays with no purpose, so I'm in the clear.)

Oh god, the possibilities. I'm seeerriouusss!

(NB. I have had a very hard time making friends with English people, so therefore I only have a few and they live far away, so mostly I live in the wilds of Ascot on my own. BORING! If I was in Estonia I would be wandering around town, eating pelmeenid and saljanka and black bread and cheesecakes and then get very drunk with my friends.)

Marie said...

Per Una is demonic. You are not mistaken. But occasional treasures are to be found in Limited, so it is worth persevering, and you can get a tub of minibites on the way out to reward you for your hard work.

Red Shoes said...

By the way, I'm distressed that I am involved in something that causes you a #5 depressing factor. I'm really going to have to work hard to compensate for that. A happy factor of like... 15, is a tough job but I'm up to it. I hope.

Jaywalker said...

Firstly, I LOVE M&S. Most of my clothes that excite comment come from there. So fear not Zoe/Marie.

Secondly, you are not helping because you are all so lovely I just want you to live down the street EVEN MORE. But thank you.

NVG - oh go on. A quick mini break. Call it 'research' or something.

- I didn't even notice the typos so what does that make me?

Zoe - I seriously considered calling you, but then my whole body went all floppy and meh and I couldn't even get it together to text you. It's poor, really it is.

Lisa - you totally get it. Exactly! Also, thank you for saying lovely things, we might well be on your doorstep soon. I envy you anthropologie very very much, even if I doubt I would actually be the right shape either. I look on the internet and drown in my own drool (nice, emma).

Red Shoes - the fact the clothes were for you was very cheering! It was only my fatness that depressed me. Once of us should move. Definitely. Or at the very least come/go on holiday.

Oh PLEASE pochyemu, the larks we would have. we could go on research trips to the parliament and stuff wearing fake beards! And yes, stalk you a capybara. The estonian food still makes me laugh, hee.

Marie, careful I am not made of stone, I love Limited and mini bites and M&S generally and miss it WAY MORE THAN MY FAMILY (sorry family)

Welsh Girl - yes! Crap. And it feels like a personal failure doesn't it? Why am I not reading Pushkin and embroidering?

expateek said...

Hmmmm. I think the constant, subtle noise of tortoise shells bumping against container walls has exacerbated your feelings of entrapment and isolation.

I recommend a trip to Warszawa to visit ME, to drink wodka in front of a roaring fire, whilst smoking cigarettes (well this will have to be on the back porch as Himself does not approve) and laughing ourselves into fits at our carefree-ness and idiocy.

Ach, I know how you feel, cuz I've been there. Making new friends in adulthood is a fraught enterprise.

But get out of the house and force yourself to call two people tomorrow... or next time you have a free afternoon. It feels awful to do it, but everyone else is actually waiting for the same thing... the call from somebody who REALLY WANTS TO BE WITH THEM.... and sometimes you have to make the call first.

Be brave, girlie.

And if you're still bummin', come visit in Polska. You're always welcome at mine.

Jaywalker said...

Expateek - TWO? Shit, no way. I haven't managed to turn my mobile phone on for a week. But the next time I will try.

A wodka evening in Warsaw. On your back porch. Now that sounds like fun. CFO might have to go into temporary hibernation though, too cold for him in those climes.

(Very) Lost in France said...

Sob.... Patisserie Valerie. Now you've made me homesick,you wicked girl! I shall now have to fly to Brussels to tell you off in person:) VLiF

Completely Alienne said...

I know how you feel - when I have a day off that isn't in school holidays it is usually to catch up on stuff I have been neglecting at home. I can't have lunch with anyone because everyone is at work and none of my friends works (or even lives) anywhere near where I live. One friend lives near work, but otherwise I either have to go to London after work or meet up halfway between them and me (which usually involves me getting hopelessly lost somewhere peculiar). It can be very lonely if you do not have established friends nearby and, as you say, making new friends as an adult is hard. I have been re-establishing old friendships as I am on my own now (apart from two teenagers) and I have already thought about this - the newest friend I have dates back to 2001 and is a former colleague.

It does seem easier to talk to people on the internet but clearly bloggers do meet up - you have a number of invitations already. I wouldn't bother with Tunbridge Wells if I were you, but if you are ever forced to come here here let me know via my blog. When next I get to Brussels (I might be passing through on my way to or from Amsterdam and Bruges next summer if my teenagers persist in their holiday desires) I will let you know and, if you are available, we can introduce our monsters to each other. Mine are still fond of cute, much smaller, children so, if bribed with wine and chocolate (see what a good mother I am) can be relied on to entertain yours while we stuff waffles, chocolate and alcohol. We just can't mention blogs in front of them as they have no idea that I report on their evil habits to total strangers via the internet.

Anne said...

Hello, you're me - we share a name and a past in a kind of bizarre way. I moved to Brussels and called myself Belgianwaffle and now I have left. If it is of any comfort (which I very much doubt), now that I am back in the safety of my own homeland, I miss my friends in Brussels. Very sad. The dreadful fate of the expat: annoying about your home while abroad and abroad while at home.

Kate said...

Hello? Jaywalker? Are you me?

I miss a few friends in France. I miss a few in New York. And every time I make a friend here, they move. I plug my lonely hole up with work, but I should probably do it with shopping because I would look a hell of a lot better and sleep a lot more.

You're always welcome in Montreal!

La Belette Rouge said...

Hey, I want to see the dress too. And please count me as one of the internets who is accepting your invitation to move to your street. I am easily motivated by waffles as big as my head. So, keep that in mind when you need to ask your new neighbor for a favor.

Jessica said...

You know, I was just wishing you lived in California.

If you moved here you could enroll your Eurospawn in an alternative school where they would be applauded for picking up a crayon, never mind using the correct one.

I adore your writing, and I'm thrilled you signed up for NaBloPoMo. Daily Waffle. Awesome.

karenmc said...

You could come to Australia. Our government pays people to have babies. No need to be lonely here!

Jaywalker said...

VLiF - Hmm; maybe we could recreate Patisserie Valerie in my kitchen? I could be Dale Winton and you could be Babs Windsor (Marylebone branch).

CA - Wow, your girls are very cosmopolitan wanting to go to Amsterdam and Bruges. I don't think I knew such places existed at their ages. How will we pretend we met?

Anne - hello! Yes, I am you, but probably more boring and self-indulgent. Would be fascinated to hear more about your Brussels Belgian Waffledom..

Belette - ah, so tempting. I do wish you could. I will send you a hideous photo of the dress and you can tell me if you think the internet is ready for such a thing.

Kate - yes. I am probably you but waaaay poorer and stupider. Not better dressed because all the hole-filling shopping tends to end up with the same three black shroudlike things.

Karen - they would have to pay me in baby pymgy hippos if they want me to have more children. So no way. But Australia, yes! I could visit the baby pygmy hippo.

Jessica - you are so so lovely lovely. And I would LOVE californian alternative schooling - it might be like my own! Who needs to know about apostrophes anyway. Hmm.

Kate said...

hahaha. Way poorer? I think you must not know that I knit for a living. Even if you are, you are way more stylish and that has to count for something. I am in jeans and a long sleeve tshirt, like most days. I would love a black shroud. Want to shop online with me?

Jaywalker said...

Oh, ok. Even with my stupid spending, I take back the 'poorer'. Knitting for a living doesn't sound specially lucrative. But yes, I would LOVE to do online shopping with you. You would soon look like you were wearing luxe binbags, but hey.

Frances said...

Oh what joy to come across this post. I am you in all ways except probably most of them, in that I moved to Brussels a year ago and the free time:friends:things to do ratio really has not worked out as I had imagined.

It only makes it worse to see the every increasing pile of improving books and even the sewing machine (ha!) I bought with the best of intentions to craft my own organic, unique and incredibly stylish dresses. I made half an ipod cover twice, then turned my attention to counting the tiles in the kitchen

The interesting and worthy people are indeed elsewhere, and I'd give anything to drown in maroon velour fringed scarfs in M+S and get stressed on the underground tomorrow

Jaywalker said...

Ooh! Frances! Do you think we should - gasp - meet up in real life? Being as how you probably actually do live in my street? We could at the very least reminisce about the particular "Eau de London Underground" fragrance we're both missing...

Léonie said...

I will come. I am already bored of Manchester and could never find anything to do in London apart from wonder why all my friends had jobs and feel like there was a big party going on around the corner that I wasn't quite cool enough to be invited to.

I am bored of being in cities wondering what to do so sitting on benches weeping and feeling, as you put it "my whole body (go) all floppy and meh" every time I consider being (shudder) proactive.

Let's all live in the Internet! But then I am too meh to even blog anymore, so I am truly done for.

Jaywalker said...

Oh Léonie. This bad real life business is hard. We should all be allowed to hang out in a giant theme park of the internet and not have to get on with the hard stuff. Poor you in Manchester. I think of you often. Come and visit! I will force you to come to York next time I am there, or come and see you in Manchester. Big internet ponies to you. The marrowdile sends you a toothy grin.