Friday, 9 January 2009

Things I never told you (because why on earth would you care)

It occurs to me, that 8 months down the line, I have not explained lots of things about the pseudonyms I use here. So I thought that perhaps, today was the day for a basic primer to complement the dramatis personae (yes, you've guessed, nothing notable has happened in the last 24 hours and I fear for the rest of my life, but my demented commitment to daily blogging will not allow me to just, refrain from boring you). Goodness, shan't we have fun today? Shan't we just!

Why are you called Jaywalker?

Ah. Yes. Well, when I first arrived in Belgium, once I had got over the initial shock of the tram wins rule, I was taken aback by the the near religious deference Brussels pedestrians give to traffic lights. It doesn't matter if you have perfect visibility for a mile each way, and there isn't a vehicle in sight. If the green man isn't showing, they aren't crossing. Before moving here, we had lived in London for ten years, with a year in Paris. On Oxford Street, and then on Bishopsgate. Near the Arc de Triomphe. People, in those places you wait for the green man, and you get crushed by a million bovine tourists and a grey horde of stabby, rushed commuters. Jaywalk, or die was my motto. It's almost an article of faith as a Londoner to cross in the most death defying ways, in front of articulated lorries, double decker buses, and risking the wrath of terrifying motorcycle couriers. We scorn bendy buses. We stick our neatly rolled umbrellas in the spokes of cyclists.

Not here. Despite the fact that Belgians consider themselves to be very individualistic (so my Belgian colleague tells me anyway), for some reason they respect traffic lights above all else. Don't get me wrong - they aren't Swiss about it. Noone has dragged me back onto the pavement with a walking stick and given me a talking to as I launch myself into the road. It's just, I'm the only one. It's probably something to do with the terrifying, arbitrary nature of tram drivers and tram routes. The road in front of you may look entirely clear, but blink and here comes a yellow bullet of death, driven with manic glee by a half blind ninety year old.

Anyway, as a eurodrone and mother, in my mid thirties, living in suburban Brussels (I am supressing a sob as I read that back), I LOVE that I get to seem dangerous and thrill seeking here. Watch, as I daringly cross the road diagonally! Thrill to see me scoot in front of a bus! Yes. It is pathetic and Belgian Waffle does not recommend that anyone crosses the road without due regard to the Green Cross Code and the Tufty Club Rules. We do not condone it. But that is the source of my name. I jaywalk! This is how I get my kicks. You may come and put me out of my misery with your humane killer now.

What does CFO stand for? Is that what he really does?

CFO stands for Chief Financial Offier. This is not what the CFO does for a living. There is an apparent slight irony in the fact that the CFO is in fact a consultant specialising in purchasing, but that irony dissipates when he explains to you that his job is to advise people how to get stuff AS CHEAPLY AS POSSIBLE. This is a skill he extends to our home life, though he does have the odd blind spot (wine, stereo equipment, tortoise care). Pluses: CFO is as tenacious as a terrier in ensuring we get the best value dishwasher, hoover, boiler [insert other stuff I couldn't give a shit about]. Minuses: the CFO can guess accurately to the nearest euro how much I have spent on pretty much anything. Viz: we are in Liberty (back in the days when I earned proper money). I am trying on a pair of Chloé heels (black, 2 and a half inch heel, have a sort of silk ribbon woven through them and are sobre and perfect) and also a pair of Maloles heels (mental, 4in, dark green with a pompom). The CFO is slumped in the corner.

"Argh, I can't decide!"

"You want me to tell you to get them both"

"Um, ideally, yes."

"Hmm. So that would be [takes a nanosecond to calculate without looking at prices at ALL] £450 [he is exactly right - £449.99]. Are you insane? Get the black ones. They're better shoes and you will wear them more".

"That is not the right answer. Why don't you go to the magazine wagon outside and look for What Hi Fi?"

I got them both and I have worn the Chloé heels constantly. They are perfect, comfortable, severe and beautiful. I have worn the Maloles green mental shoes once. They are crap. They fall off and hurt like bastards. I look like some kind of florid creative writing teacher on retreat in Wales when I wear them (never). You see? Annoying.

Lashes and Fingers?

These are purely physical. Lashes has the kind of eyelashes I would kill for. I can't find any pictures that show them off properly so I am just putting in this one because I like it. Also he is not picking his nose in it, which is a rarity at the moment. I feel like Dexter's foster father in my discussions with Lashes about nose picking.

"They laugh at me when I pick my nose"

"So don't do it"


"Hmm. So you will just have to be more subtle about it"

"Ca veut dire quoi "subtle"?"

"Secretive. Cunning. When you feel like you need to pick your nose, you could pretend to drop something and do it on the floor, or you could go to the loo, no? The thing to do is to try and make sure they don't see you".

"I will try to hide then"

"Yes, that's right. Hide. Er, obviously it would be better if you just stopped picking your nose though".

[Diary reminder to self: delete this before Lashes turns 13]

Fingers has always had disproportionately long fingers. When Lashes first saw him in hospital he said "SPIDER"! as Fingers waved his giant digits in his face. They both love this story. You can just see a couple of them here. He is usually poking them up my nose or in my eyes. Or doing something very secretive that noone must ever know about with them. [as an aside, Fingers has not played with any of his Christmas present toys. He has hidden them in his secret box and when I suggest he plays with them, he just looks shocked and says that then people would know about them.]

Why the Space Cadette?

I devised this name for my sister ages back in 2003-4 when I was considering writing a book about the fucking mental life we were all living then, between gibbering calls from paranoid relatives, visits to the asylum, legal doom, amusing 1 year old Lashes, imminent move to Paris and antenatal visits. The whole thing seemed so horribly surreal, I felt it merited writing down. Of course, I didn't, and now my brain has done the decent thing and erased most of the memories. Anyway, I remember it came to me walking through Russell Square on my way to work. She is very spacey and vague, of course, as noted previously here, and in French 'cadette' is the word for a younger sister.

Prog Rock Step Dad - a bit of a mouthful no?

Yes, and it's not quite right, because he doesn't listen to prog rock at all. He listens to what he calls "heavy sausage". But he is very progressive parent, which is perhaps why I gave him that name. I need a new name for him. Something to do with being ascetic and hair shirt-esque and saintly. The darning hermit? Any other ideas? Read this if you want more details.

I think that should clear up most confusion. If you do have any questions, I am open to questions from the floor. Or wherever else you are sitting. COULD I BE MORE PRESUMPTUOUS? Why would you care? Anyway. Whatever. Ask questions or tell me to do more stuff with potatoes. I'm easy.


Léonie said...

I only found out what jaywalking was last year, because as a word it sounds totally unlike what it is. Do jays cross the road when they are not supposed to? It would be better if it meant walking in a dangerously bird-like way.

Jaywalker said...

Why would they not FLY, indeed?

justme said...

Well, what I would LIKE to know, is how you came to have all those tortoises? I mean, they are not normally considered to be pack animals (reptiles?)....are they??And how are the ones still in the salad compartment doing? And how are you managing without eating salad?

nappy valley girl said...

In Hong Kong and Singapore, you can actually get fined for jaywalking...

I want to know how you ended up being a lawyer??

Jaywalker said...

Justme -
When Julius died, the CFO was devastated and vowed never to get so attached to a creature again. He decided he could not cope without tortoises, but we would get enough to make them semi-anonymous. I don't suppose it will work, since he knows #3 from #4 with no difficulty. And Tortank and Big Mama have names and are distinctive. Fingers crossed noone dies.

There are 2 still in hibernation, coming out this weekend according to my advisor. The rest have emerged, freeing up a whole vegetable compartment. Anyway, I have eaten nothing but toast and cake for approximately a fortnight, so it is not so problematic.

Nappy Valley Girl - well, in my last year at Oxford everyone with random non-vocational degrees like me was running around joining merchant banks and the like, causing intense collective hysteria. I was caught between herd instinct (strong) and inertia (also strong). I had worked for some lawyers in Brussels in a vacation (OH THE DULL) and it was about the only job the Bearded One approved of, so I tottered off and did some dismally awful interviews with various chinless wonders and eventually the original set of lawyers took pity on me and offered me a job. I figured it would at least allow me to go to foreign places. It allowed me to go to Belgium, so, um, half right.


Completely Alienne said...

I'd love a Cicciolina here at work! It would certainly liven the place up, though I suppose we would have to wade through lakes of drool ...

I ended up as a lawyer by accident too and I have never worked out what it is that I really want to do. I suppose at least it pays well compared to more interesting jobs.

How is the weepette?

Jaywalker said...

CA - Hmm. Well he is sweet and strokable and terminally lazy. All good; However he is starting to also get devious and sneaky and he is a bit snappy xhen excited - not so good. But on balance he's completely awesome.

I still can't believe I actually get to keep him. It's like when you bring a baby back from the hospital and you just can't believe that they're letting you leave with this incredible creature without some kind of aptitude test at the least.

Persephone said...

Actually, I found the dramatis personae pretty self explanatory, but I'm still unclear on "heavy sausage". Jethro Tull?

"Jaywalking" has been in the English language since the First World War (apparently) and at that time a "jay" could mean one of two things: 1)a silly person or a simpleton; 2) a bold or impudent person. I'd go with Number Two, right?

Word verification is blesse. In the French sense, that means wounded. In the English sense, "lucky" or "happy". Number One for me today, so I won't be blogging...

LadyFi said...


I live in Sweden (I'm British too) where the traffic light is respected. (I respect it myself when out with the anklebiters...) but my gawd - how I love the thrill of jaywalking when on my own!! That's what counts as living on the edge over here...

bonnie-ann black said...

at last! i sort of figured out Lashes, Fingers and CFO... it was Jaywalker i was having trouble with -- not because i didn't know what one is (i am a native New Yorker, after all) but how it applied to you! mystery solved. at least, one of them, anyway. how *anyone* winds up as a lawyer is a mystery for the ages ... not that i don't have great respect for the profession; i do. it's law *firms* i have trouble with; especially as i current work in a world-wide firm and use my brain less than i ever did in small practices. *sigh* but really, that's okay. it frees it up to do other things.

do you ever get a chance to escape to london these days, jaywalker? i'll be visiting the sceptered isle in february and wondered if you ever escaped eurodrondom (eurodronediniam?) to spend a day?

my word today is "manabin" which sounds like some sort of name shouted at reckless people crossing the road: "You are insane, you manabin! You will bring us all down with you!"

katyboo1 said...

Canadians too are tough on Jaywalking, tough on the causes of Jaywalking. They do instant fines.

The Germans fine you if you ride your bike on the pavement, or if you feed pigeons, or if you forget to recycle. And if you breathe funny. I did not get on well living in Germany. It was a dark time.

It makes Belgium look positively louche by comparison.

Persephone said...

Canadians too are tough on Jaywalking, tough on the causes of Jaywalking. They do instant fines. We are? I've lived in Edmonton, Victoria, Toronto and Ottawa, never seen a jaywalker fined yet. Nor a pavement cyclist get his/hers. (Not in favour of cyclists on pavements, from personal experience.)

Red Rum said...

LOVE the SPIDER!!! story very much. Jaywalker, you've got to stop feeling that you were wrong to be a lawyer. You were RIGHT!!! I promise that the grass isn't greener on the other side - the apparently creative stuff isn't really and is very poorly paid in 99% of cases. I have NEVER bought Chloe shoes, you have already lived the dream, man! You are an excellent role model for modern women! Well done!!! RR x

Mr Farty said...

Hmmm, I'd figured out CFO and Lashes, but thanks for splaining Fingers and your own moniker, J-Dub. I'd thought it described your gait or something.

bevchen said...

Apparantly it's illegal to jaywalk in Germany. I've never actually seen anyone get in trouble for it though. Here people just randomly walk across the road in front of trams without even bothering to look first.

Iheartfashion said...

Prog Rock Step Dad sounds like a fascinating guy! My grandfather was that way, always with a big book, and could expound on numerous topics, in several languages. I love people with that much curiosity about the world. I fear that I am completely shallow and pop-culture obsessed however.

Lisa said...

Oh, I care. Trust me.

Jaywalker said...

Persephone - I need to check with him. Sort of, sixties/seventies shouty rock.

LadyFi - ah yes, you and me, keeping it real with our death-defying escapades...

Bonnie-ann - I would love to. Will see what I can engineer...

Katyboo - can I recommend that you do not choose to holiday in Switzerland either?

RR - I do love the shoe buying/financial independence. I do have the law to thank for that. Sorry for dissing you law. You are boring but well paid, I give you that.

Mr F - depends on status of the knee of death I think! I like being called J-dub.

Bevchen - how about you? Do you throw yourself in front of the wheels of trams?

Iheart - yes. Me too. He is very shame inducing.

Lisa - ah, thank you. Got any questions?