Thursday, 30 April 2009

Weekend Meme from Bleach Towers

This is one I prepared earlier, stocking up posts for the looong May Bank Holiday weekend at the place where obsessive compulsive comes to get ideas. I stole it from Antonia.

1. Are you a male or female: Eh? Isn't it obvious? Was it the baldness that confused you?

2. Describe yourself: Entirely residing in my own head. Shy, with tiny but tenacious arrogant streaks. Great, abiding love of ridiculousness, and furry things.

3. How do you feel about yourself: Irritated, frustrated, hyper critical. Like a mentally abusive spouse.

4. Describe your parents: Huge over-achievers. Both from poor backgrounds, brought up in council houses, first in their family to go to university, both Professors.

Father: very important bearded scientist about whom I must not talk too much due to importantness. One day I will want to write a looong memoir about our relationship which is tangled and odd but rather a delight in parts. When he retires, if he ever does. Used to live entirely surrounded with peculiar animals - two goats, an escaped circus dog called Ratty, chickens, ferrets and a rabbit called Heraclitis - and drive a Smiths Crisp van. Misspent youth. Now terribly proper, but still secretly delighted by furry things, like me.

Mother: professor of social policy with particular focus on social, emotional and economic outcomes for unpaid carers, including child carers. Passionate about social justice. Glaswegian. Loved music, beautiful clothes, poetry, dancing on tables. Weakness for crisps. Very very soft skin. I miss the feel of it against my cheek almost more than anything else. Once sent me a beautiful bouquet of spring flowers to Oxford (where I had been endlessly, grimly miserable) with the message "Nearly time to come out Persephone". Damn, I just made myself cry.

5. Describe your ex boyfriend/girlfriends: ha, barely existent. They date from the time that dinosaurs roamed the earth. Only one of note:

Chris - student teacher to my 6th form student, and great love. Used to leave tiny slips of paper with typed (! I told you it was ages ago) messages on them hidden in my study which was breathtakingly romantic aged 17. Drove me around North Yorkshire to obscure pubs to get me drunk. Dumped me unceremoniously after about a year. Had a giant protruding jaw.

Also, Nick (First) - buck teeth, Yorkshire lothario and Karim (spoilt me for normal relationships by being a holiday romance in Casablanca. Drove me around Morocco. Desperately romantic. Short lived).

6. Describe your current boy/girl situation: CFO, beloved of these pages. French, 39, quite short, rather handsome, far neater and more virtuous than me.

7. Describe your current location: hideous back room, overlooking garden, home of piano, tortoises, crayons and currently a layer of brightly coloured plastic crystals used for making bouncy balls yesterday. Fingers is sharpening crayons painstakingly opposite me, Lashes is watching Pokémon. Oscar is roaming around wishing someone would take him out. The back yard looks nice though - this is its one week of the year to look good. Still some magnolia, lilac, the strange yellow tree is flowering, and our gigantic weed collection is lushly green. Did I just talk about gardening? Please kill me now.

8. Describe where you want to be: Tea at the Wolesley with Violet, Claridges Bar in good shoes. Bettys with my mum. On a pony. Liberty with money to burn.

9. Your best friend(s) is/are: terribly patient. Funny. Compassionate. As self-critical as I am.

10. Your favourite colour is: GREEN. So the children tell me repeatedly. In fact, for clothes, black. For shoes, red.

11. You know that: It's a Phase. It's always a phase.

12. If your life was a television show what would it be called: Let's not face the music, but hide in bed instead. It wouldn't be much fun.

13. What is life to you: Very perplexing indeed, veering between terrifying and joyful often in the same hour.

14. What is the best advice you have to give: Buy lots of pairs of scissors, small plastic bags and lots of stamps. Great for giving the illusion of being organised.

Try it yourself and give me the link in the comments. I'm curious.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The People's Choice

Sorry to the cake people (see kitchen photo below) and to the Damien fanciers (I just couldn't face the risk of thumbed brown envelopes of naked grocers dropping through my letterbox). This is all I could manage with the time and sanity available.


Weepette/shoe porn

Inexplicable scenes live from the Waffledome tonight:


A 3D wafflebara is one of those 'only in the movies' things, Monk.

A 2D wafflebara, however, is a little easier.

(Yes, all day, including conducting three interviews)

The Day 2 Home Alone kitchen.

Goopy speech

First the introspection, later the photos (so far I think the wishlist is weepette porn, themed cake, street urchin children, Damien and shoes. Correct?) .

I started this blog a year ago, not because I was unhappy, or lonely, or had anything particular to say (though at times this year all those things have been true), but because Belgium seems to me endlessly funny and surreal, and I wanted to share it a bit more widely. Also, I rarely get to speak my mother tongue at home, and had started muttering to myself on street corners. Belgium has not disappointed and the blog has been an endless source of joy for me. High points:

The Village Fête and especially Jen from Cakewrecks judging the cake competition. I can hardly wait for this year's fête. I have great plans. We are going to whup the Guardian's substandard fête this year, I can just feel it. Peevish is planning her campaign to retain her All Fête Champion's ribbon.

My first and greatest blogcrush, Mimi Smartypants emailing me (yeah, ok, after I harassed her stupid BUT STILL).

Confessional. All of it, all the time.

Taunting goats with a magnetic penis loop with Antonia, my second greatest blogcrush.

A thoroughly undeserved mention in the Sunday Times Top 100 Blogs (thank you India, I owe you riches beyond the dreams of avarice, Claude François routines and lunch Au Vieux St Martin)

"She sounds really funny this woman" from Grayson Perry (even though this compliment was basically stolen from Katyboo and not deserved at all). I might have it carved on my tombstone.

Most important of all, every day, some comment or email making me laugh. EVERY DAY. It's no surprise I post everyday because you are my secret vice, my treat to myself, my repeated indulgence; you are WONDERFUL. How did I manage without you? Liberty London Girl and Mrs Trefusis, Mothership, Sue and her dreaded fountain pen husband, and Pochyemu and the lost capybara, Red Shoes, Katyboo and Alan Measles, and Lulu's curtain pelmets made from dehydrated frogs, and Helena's menacing bee, Vanessa's brownie pan and all the rest. Bath Bun even lives right round the corner (and yes BB, the White Night does sell batteries) and Juci offered to cook me dinner at my wretchedest. Zoe has not yet managed to kill me, but frequently tries. People have helped me decode the mysterious jaw of the wrench in the shower, given me tips on weepette training, showed me the darkest contents of their fridges. I even have a secret document where I keep my favourite comments and I opened it up today. I have been feeling a little melancholy (birthdays do that to a girl) and it was so cheering. You are funny and weird and insanely, blushmakingly complimentary.

You even stick with me when I veer away from the travails of child wrestling, domestic revoltingness or Eurotedium. I have talked about grief and madness and bulimia; about abortion and relationship crises. You have said things - compassionate, wise things - that I hold in a corner of my heart and will not forget.

This has been a GOOD year, despite the shaky state of affairs with the CFO and it's mainly thanks to the blog (and, of course, the absence of death or madness in my immediate family, in itself notable given recent history. Oh, and the weepette). So thank you. Thank you Belgium, thank you spawn, thank you Cassandra who needled me to start a blog, thank you Guy Verhofstadt for being so cake-genic, thank you my very own gay child wafflebébé, thank you Dinosaurs, thank you everyone. Thank you, thank you all, I'm sure I've forgotten to thank so many of you ...

[Jaywalker is escorted from the stage weeping snottily, and shouting 'I still have to thank Nathan! And Damien! And Tragicanon, and the moths!']

If you would like an over-emotional Gwyneth style thank you in the comments, don't be shy, just ask for one. I have lots of gushing still to give.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Home Alone

The CFO is going away tomorrow for the week, sweeping back on Thursday evening to take us all straight to OCD brother in law's bleach scented palace in Dijon. (Burglars of Belgium, please not that I am not at ALL a defenceless, feeble-limbed female who usually forgets to lock the door, AND I have a weepette féroce. Si si si. He will rip you limb from limb, if you happen to be a slice of ham)

He goes away a lot, so I know how it goes.

Day 1

I wake the children up with a song on my lips and a tender kiss to their adorably sweet smelling foreheads. I make pancakes, sort out school bags with nourishing snacks, shower and dress in something elegant with a twist and we all troop off to school in plenty of time. After more tender kisses, I waft off to work in a cloud of Camélia Chinois.

When I get home from work we laugh and joke together as I prepare dinner, Lashes does his homework diligently, we watch a little tv and both boys are tucked up in bed in plenty of time with more tender kisses. I clean the kitchen beautifully, tidy up all the stray socks, then spend the evening and much of the night on the internets talking about how hard my life is. I eventually get to bed dreadfully late and take the dog with me. The dog fidgets for the remainder of the night keeping me awake.

Day 2

I sleep in until 7:55 after the stupidly late night, then have to offer the children cash money to get dressed and to school on time. I wear yesterday's clothes without washing. Waving €5 notes in front of their noses and thrusting small bags of dried cereal into their hands, we get out of the house at 8:15. I am euphoric. "Well done boys!" I trill, gaily. I am Bohemian, delightful, spontaneous. We are not bound by timetables! We can overcome! There are more tender kisses, though a little quicker this time. I sprint for the tram in a cloud of Sure for Men.

I get home, slightly foxed and weary and collect them, to the sound of lengthy recriminations about forgotten books, snacks and sports kit, which I drown out with artery furring snacks from the machine. I plonk everyone down in front of the tv, pausing to kick the dog, by now insane with loneliness, and tread in dog shit. I turn on the internet and when I next look up it is nearly bedtime. I hastily microwave something and shove a stick of cucumber next to it for good conscience. By the time it has been eaten and we have located pyjamas (hidden in the neurotic dog's house), it is way past bedtime. I race through a story and give increasingly perfunctory and harried kisses. I note that the children smell of hamster bedding. If anyone calls me back for water, or lights, or to correct the alignment of the alarm clock, I may snap.

I spend the rest of the evening telling the internet I am having a nervous breakdown. I forget to eat. When I get to bed around 2am, the dog is wide awake from lack of exercise and keen to PLAY.

Day 3

Once more I miss the alarm and we sleep until 8:00. The children demand €10 each this time per item of clothing put on independently. I make lavish promises of live ponies and trips to Disneyland if we arrive in time. I go upstairs to unearth something to wear from the floor. When I return noone has done anything except locate a packet of Haribo Starmix in the kitchen. I SHOUT. A lot. The dog cowers. I dress everyone, fulminating and swearing about how I have to do EVERYTHING AROUND HERE JESUS CHRIST PUT THE DAMN DOG DOWN WHERE ARE YOUR SHOES. We get as far as the front door and I realise I have lost my keys. By the time I have found the keys both children have disappeared and lost their shoes. We get out of the house, ten minutes late, run full pelt down the road and have to wheedle our way into school. There is no time for kisses. I dash for the tram in a cloud of stale sweat.

I return home collecting some filthy, pissed off children who may or may not be mine (I no longer care) and realise I have left the front door open and all the lights on. In a variation on this theme, sometimes I have put the burglar alarm on and let the weepette out, meaning the alarm has been ringing since 8:30 that morning and the neighbours are gathering around the door with pitchforks. Or perhaps I realise I have lost my keys. When we get in, I hand everyone a packet of crisps and a juice and tell them if they want anything else they can find it themselves. I do Lashes' homework myself in despair, while he sticks skewers into the DVD player and practises kickboxing on the dog.

Usually the third evening is the point at which I find myself either lying crying on the bathroom floor, or flouncing off into my bedroom and slamming the door. Either way, it's a special moment. I shut the children in their rooms to a chorus of "who is that horrible woman, she smells bad" around 9. I wonder who I can call and complain at for a while, then give up and lay my head on the sticky, unwiped kitchen countertop to weep for a few minutes. I have radiation sickness from spending so long on the internet. The only food left in the house is cornichons. I usually go to bed to lie in a foetal position moaning gently around 9:30. I have probably lost or killed the dog by this point.

Day 4

By this point all bets are off and it's Lord of the Flies. Anyone who comes out alive is going to need a whole shedload of counselling.

You will be able to watch my decline live and in colour here. Perhaps we should have some kind of code word I use when I really really need you to call social services?

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Guess where

I can barely contain my glee.

Do you know what I love? I love THE SCARY BAT CAVES. And so, today, I am happy. Because, finally, I have been to visit my delightful nocturnal friends in their 12th century crypt.

Is this not the most delightfully furry little thing? It is. Mrs Trefusis loves bats and you know she has exquisite taste.

For the less adventurous, the SCARY BAT CAVES now have added elephants!

Given my self-appointed rôle as scratchy, neurotic Empress of darkness, I thought you might like to see that even my dessicated heart is gladdened by the smiling yet oddly melancholy face of an elephant eating apples. Look, that stretched expression on my face! Can it be? Surely not a smile?

Yes, in the scorched cavity where my soul should be, there is a great love of all things furry or feathery or scaly that are in some way amusing and delightful (defined very widely). There are always many, many creatures at the scary bat caves that I would like to fit in my handbag and take home.

"Look! The penguins!

So small and so accessible. Surely we can have one? Just one. We could fill the bath with ice".


"Or a baby goat? Look!

So tiny! Lashes has already caught it for us. Look at its tiny horns! It would make an excellent guard animal. Much better than the weepette".


"A vulture?"


"How about one of those teeny tiny monkeys? They have such convenient little hands. And so agile! It could hook back all the curtains that are falling down. Fingers has one well within his reach there.

If it could be trusted not to screech, it could tuck into my jacket. Just here, look"

"You remember what they eat?

No. I will not be responsible for feeding anything live mealworms"

"We could totally fit a baby capybara in the car"

"An adult even. The boot is surprisingly spacious for an Alfa. But I refuse to let our house become l'arche de Noé. You can't have a capybara"

"Think of it as taking full advantage of the entrance fee"


I left emptyhanded. But one day I just know I will crack, and sneak out with some furry trembly parcel under my coat and I will be caught by the front gates, totally unrepentant.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The Belgian Waffle Secular Confessional: April Edition

As advertised, the Belgian Waffle confessional is open again, the Holy Tortoise TM has been dusted off and the forgiveness of, and hideous penance to be imposed on, sinners is foremost in my mind. I am quite prepared to deal with your sins, internet. I can be as judgmental as you like. I have barely left the house for three days in what will doubtless turn out to have been the entirety of the Belgian summer, instead, spending my time crouched, crochety and aching, over my laptop making precious little progress on anything other than watching capybara videos. I am ready to share the pain.

As for my own sins, well. I am finding this a little trickier this month. Not because I am been good, and not, I hasten to add because I have been dramatically or excitingly bad. I think my sins are a little cerebral at the moment. The catholics doubtless have a word for this. Stuff you think about doing but don't. [Catholics: supply word here]. Pff. I will try anyway. Here goes:

Bless me internet for I have sinned. It has been one month since my last confession, though I have alluded to most of my sins in recent posts anyway.

1. Whilst I still like the weepette very very much, and find him a delightfully restful companion, unlike my other housemates, I hate walking him. I did not expect this. I thought that walking around with an elegant dog trotting along beside me would be one of the greatest pleasures of dog ownership. It isn't. I am simply too lazy and hate the outdoors and the weepette still pulls at my arm the whole time despite all your excellent advice. The only bit of the outside I do like is shops, and he is not allowed in any of the good ones. So: dog ownership fail. The only time I like walking the dog is related to sin 3.

2. I have on several occasions deliberately rounded up/bribed and bullied dog and children to the park this week in the hope of seeing the beautiful Mexican boy again. Without success. Is this punishment enough for me? No, I didn't think so. Can we move on? This one makes me feel uncomfortable.

3. I have forgotten to close the stair gate on more occasions than you can imagine this week, leading to weepette deposits on the upper floors. I have concealed the evidence of weepette accidents, in one case with an artfully displayed pair of dirty socks, safe in the knowledge that the CFO is VERY unlikely to pick up his dirty socks and see the evidence of WEEPETTE CRIME and OWNER INCOMPETENCE. When he does,I feign compete bewilderment. "When can that have happened? It must have been when Fatima was here".

4. Every day for lunch I have two crème caramels and a handful of biscuits. Sometimes I have a handful of dry cornflakes for the vitamins. I have the dietary habits of a particularly stupid student. This is hardly confession-worthy, but then I have the gall to get upset when I see a photo of myself looking like a jaundiced mole rat with bad skin.

5. Since February I have been living in a dreamlike state of confusion and denial about THINGS (you know, Things). I still have no idea what is going on with the CFO and I. Clearly, what has been said cannot be unsaid, but that is exactly what we seem to be doing - pretending all that soul-searching and misery of February never happened. This is going to be on the list every month for the next 50 years, I think. I want someone to decide for me. Pah.

6. Oh, a couple more little ones that I have just remembered. 3 months and still no contraception sorted out because I am an administrative idiot and a medical coward. Also, if you are owed a parcel from me, I am really sorry but I still haven't faced the unspeakable evil that is the post office.

Ok, darlings. Your turn. Penance, confession, whatever your dark little haggis hearts desire.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Minor first world problems I am experiencing

Mirror, Signal, Shrieking terror

I have developed a morbid fear of parking the car. After driving fairly blithely around through the easter holidays I have now got what the French would term a blocage. Not good at spatial awareness related tasks at the best of times I am now physically incapable of parallel parking. Yesterday I am ashamed to say that I cried and swore and beat my tiny fists on my not at all tiny thighs trying to park for the spawn's ridiculous karate class. Eventually I parked on a zebra crossing on the pavement virtually in a bin (only place I could avoid parallel parking) somewhere where I had to climb across to the passenger side snivelling and ranting to exit the car. Lashes had to give me a hug which was shaming. When I pulled out of the space I nearly crashed into someone, compounding things even further. So now I have an urban driving phobia. It's really convenient.

Does anyone have any suggestions as to how I can overcome it? The fear really kicks in when there is someone behind me and I have to parallel park in a speedy and efficient manner. I am completely incapable of doing so, and have to drive around the block hopelessly twenty five times until I get a grip, or someone moves. As a result we are now constantly late, wherever we are going and the car, which I have long loved as a rather pretty and delightful compromise vehicle in a Belgian Waffle shade of black, is filling me with dread.

I get no work done because I want to live with these people and I am in love with Caplin Rous

I don't know who this lady is but I love her. She is sharing her popcorn with a capybara. I like it when she kisses him, quietly on the side of the neck. He loves her too (or possibly just her cereal). Then she teaches him to beg for a popsicle.

Caplin Rous is spiritually British! "Huffing and clicking are signs of aggression". You are one of us, Caplin. Come, stand in the Post Office queue with me and we shall huff and click and tut. I have popsicles too. Come, touch me with your paw and I shall feed you all the ice lollies your giant hamster heart desires...

Also, what do these people do exactly? Because I want to be part of it. They have essentially turned their pet capybara, not on first sight, the most appealing of animals, with its scornful front teeth, into a cottage industry.

This house has a goddam microclimate

Welcome to the frozen steppes of Uccle. Outside, the mercury is grazing a balmy 20°. Here in the house, and particularly with the back door open (to allow the weepette to sit on the bench and look regal comme ceci:

rather than fidget neurotically around my legs), I am losing all sensation in my limbs. I had looked out a rather lovely parc du caca outfit of wide leg indigo linen trousers, pretty, slightly African patterned short sleeved top and red sandals. Now I am wearing linen trousers, African print top, a hoodie, a jacket, socks and slippers and I am still cold.

It's all my fault vol. 874

Lashes and I went, finally, to see the 'graphomotricienne' today, who I had imagined as a whiskery, pinched handwriting gorgon who would smell of menthol and talcum powder and fear. After a whole load of parking trauma (see above) we got there ten minutes late to find a delightful, jolly, intelligent woman who offered him a load of oozing green playdoh and was sweet and sensible and so kind I felt like laying my head on her large bosom and relating my woes from age 4 onwards. I didn't. I made myself scarce while she kicked a foam cube around with Lashes, ecstatic to have escaped the gulag briefly, and made him draw pictures and build towers and generally gave him a far more fun time than he gets either at school or at home.

She noted that Lashes, whilst brimming with native cunning and fun and imagination, does not have good motor skills, be they catching a ball (ugh!), handwriting (bleugh) or putting things together (brrrr). She showed me his hyper-mobile joints and we compared how far we could each bend our wrists and fingers back (a loooong way, both of us). We noted that, like his mother, he has difficulty distinguishing left and right, and has a tendency to bump into things or misunderstand practical instructions. Poor Lashes, doomed to be picked last for team sports just like me. She also wondered about his eyesight, which is clearly also doomed, when you look at his parents. The child has a grim genetic heritage where coordination is concerned, and it's all my fault.

No matter. I love her and she will spend an hour playing with my son and, I think, actually rather liking him, unlike the gulag hags. (Yes, I am still having first world pangs about the gulag)

Tune in next time when I will tell you how the cleaner shrank my dry clean only cashmere, the travails of finding decent organic vegetables and why it's impossible to find decent staff these days. Joke, JOKE.

In fact, tune in tomorrow for APRIL CONFESSIONAL. Have you been bad? Very bad? You have, haven't you. I can sense it.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

My Day in Red, also known as The Post That Is Going Nowhere

I tried a social experiment yesterday. My working days are long and tedious and I need to amuse myself in whatever ways I can.

I had been trying to persuade someone they should wear my totally unworn red dress to a wedding last week, and had even gone as far as getting it out and taking its picture. Here it is:

It's a terrible picture, but I am too lazy and inert to try and take another one. Passons.

Being a disgusting slattern, the dress had never made its way back as far the wardrobe and was sitting on the chair in my bedroom waiting for the clothes pixies to carry it away. Getting dressed yesterday morning, it caught my eye.

There are several reasons why I have never worn this dress (bought on a whim on the internet, very cheap). Firstly and most importantly, it is a COLOUR. Aaaah colour. My basic rule of thumb is that I limit myself to the colour spectrum of the domestic hamster. If it isn't a colour that hamsters come in, I will not wear it. This dress is emphatically not a self-effacing russet. It is OH MY FUCKING GOD THAT IS RED. Orangey red even. Secondly it is made of tremendously light summery silk, and I live in Belgium and lead the existence of a cave dwelling hermit. Where, exactly would I wear such a thing? [Belgiana dwellers, this is your cue to invite me to the kind of parties where I can wear floaty silk nuclear red dresses. I have many other skills including falling over, becoming totally mute in company and stealing your spoons.]

But something in my reptilian brain snapped yesterday morning and I put the damned dress on. Then I put on some thoroughly opaque black tights and black ballet flats and went downstairs. I told myself that I would wear the dress to see whether life would be different in red. Also, that if anyone asked, I would tell them I was having a midlife crisis. I will set out my results below. I think, if I were scientifically minded, I would have to say that the data is unreliable and inconclusive.

1. Offspring

The children were nonplussed, but relatively undemonstrative.
"Waouh. You are red!" said Lashes, before turning back to Pokématters. Fingers did not comment, but prodded me a couple of times speculatively, as if checking to see if it was really me.

Conclusion: children notice changes in dress habits but do not care.

2. Other household members

The CFO was away, so no comment from him. Probably for the best. The dog behaved like a shithead, laying waste to my tights, so was apparently not affected at all.

Conclusion: the weepette has no brain and should not be included in the data set.

3. Corridor of Ennui meeting

Two women commented favourably, if slightly eyebrow raisedly on the dress and I gave them my line about the midlife crisis. They laughed nervously. It solicited no male interest or comment whatsoever. Most attendees were already busy staring at their shoes. Eye contact, previously rare, became non-existent.

Conclusion: women notice sartorial nervous breakdowns, men don't. I am totally breaking new sociological grounds with this investigation aren't I? It's GROUND BREAKING, people. .

4. Lunch

Went out for lunch, in and of itself an achievement in these credit crunchy times. It was tremendously strange, with menus in giant perspex cylinders, tiny burgers on perilously long sticks, waving in the breeze and luridly green sauces in small plastic syringes. I got drunk on 2 glasses of champagne, thereby screwing up the remaining data entirely.

Conclusion: Drinking champagne in a red dress is nice, but screws up necessary scientific objectivity for the remainder of the day, sorry experiment.

5. Tram journey home.

The driver lurched away from my stop in usual murderous fashion sending me flying. I was caught by three pairs of male hands, one of them on my arse.

Conclusion: the red dress increased tram chivalry and possibly accidental groping from elderly military gentlemen. The red dress has no effect on the homicidal tendencies of 92 tram drivers.

6. Back home, dog duty

When I took the weepette to the parc du caca, the beautiful baseball throwing Mexican boy who makes me go all trembly, threw his baseball for the idiot dog many times then sat next to me on the bench and asked the weepette out for a drink. This was just weird. He bent down and addressed the weepette and said "If you are allowed, you can come out for a drink with me this weekend". WHAT DOES IT MEAN, INTERNET? I know you may suggest it was sort of addressed at me, but there was NO follow up. He left a couple of minutes later. Does he date skinny dogs? Is it intended to be mysterious? Did I imagine it? Was it a joke? I blame the red dress for allowing me to imagine it was anything other than yet another piece of Belgian weirdness.

Conclusion: the red dress allows me to entertain, or possibly hallucinate, the possibility of enigmatic invitations from handsome youths. This is not a good train of thought for me. Bad dress. Bad, bad dress.

7. Final stage

I took the red dress off (now very crumpled, and quite constricting around the ribs), as the red dress friendly pants I had to wear with it were cutting me in half. Then I got food poisoning.

Conclusion: the red dress provides protection against food poisoning.

Final conclusions

I remain a graceless idiot whether in or out of a red dress. I should plan posts earlier in the day, especially when I know that the latter half of the day will be spent dancing attendance on Team Beast. The weepette may or may not have a date.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Surprise test

Shut your textbooks, get out a pen and a sheet of paper. Candidates must answer question 1, plus three other questions which must include one fashion dilemma. You have 24 hours. Credit will be given for partial answers if they are VERY good.

Compulsory creative writing question

1. If we were to rewrite John Burningham's Would you rather with dilemmas for the modern age, what would you include?

Example: Would you rather have Simon Cowell sneer at your outfit, Trinny and Susannah poke your boobs, Supernanny tell you your behaviour is "unassettable", or Kim and Aggie look behind your toaster?

Social Studies

2. Is it vulgar to want to mark my blogversary in some way? If I were to organise some kind of small gathering in Brussels would that be ridiculous? If you are an axe murderer, please go to question 2a. If you are not, please go to question 2b.

2a Would you take advantage of such an occasion to dismember me and place my remains in refuse sacks?

2b Would you come? Would it be unbearably awkward and we would find nothing to say to each other and you would make your excuses after five minutes leaving me alone with a table full of politician shaped cupcakes?


Answer one only of questions 3 to 6

3. How short is too short when you are 34 and have reasonable legs apart from the knees and the thighs and sometimes the left ankle?

4. When do I have to give up on opaque tights for the year? Is temperature or month the deciding factor?

5. Do I have to give in and accept that wedges are a force for good in the world?

6. Construct five work outfits from a summer capsule wardrobe consisting of:

a) White and blue horizonal striped Sonia skating skirt
b) Geranium strappy Ferragamo sandals
c) Cream cotton Comtoir des Cottoniers peacoat with huge coffee stain down the front
d) Gaping, cleavage revealing Ginka black silk top with red and brown polka dots and a poorly placed bow, very mumsy.
e) Silver Paul & Joe vest, beautiful but obscenely low cut.
f) Black M&S short swingy cotton jacket, 3/4 length sleeves, big buttons, very faded, much loved.
g) Blue-white legs, horrid toenails and heat rash (model's own).

You also have access to a pair of curtains with cream zebras on them, 3 pairs of size 6 Reiss sale capri pants (blue, grey and black) that you can only get up to your knees and normal household equipment.

Home economics

7. What can I make tonight with thin strips of pork fillet without using rice or onions? Recipe must not include more than 4 ingredients, or take more than 10 minutes.

8. Why does dog food smell so gross? Why can't it smell of lavender, or grass, given that dogs happily consume both these things?

9. You have €80 that must last you until 5 May. You need to pay the cleaner (€60), pay for school meals (€120), feed a family of 4 and organise a Pokémon birthday party for eight 7 year olds. What do you do? Show your working.


10. Is it wrong to wear a small live tortoise as a brooch? Why? Does it make a difference if the tortoise is studded with self-adhesive rhinestones?

11. Belgium. Why?

Modern languages

12. Use the words varkensnoet, shackass, hevigesnurken in their proper context in a single sentence.

Monday, 20 April 2009


I think I might be broken.

I woke up this morning with a bonus left Knee of Death joining the usual right KoD. They have been competing all day to see who can impede my movement more effectively. Left knee is currently winning with its signature vice-like kneecap death grip. It has been toying with me, seizing up when a 92 tram, rare as a unicorn made from waffles, comes into view. Right knee continues its sterling work preventing deep, or even shallow, knee bends. Both of them are working a sort of puffy fluid-filled loveliness, that is entirely charming, especially in a dress.

I have extra twinges in my hip flexors, stomach and forearms, a result of a week picking 20kg of Fingers up repeatedly, because he is delightful and soft and has short, very lazy legs. The knees are a result of trying to beat the hippies to the largest chocolate eggs, I think. Damn hippies. Some of them run really fast, even in their horrid foot shaped hand tooled, cruelty free shoes.

I am broken aren't I? It's my age. I don't bounce back anymore. I don't even walk slowly back. I am stuck in broken corner, clutching my aching bits and hobbling.

The CFO is similarly afflicted. Doing battle with unending evil that is hair washing last night, he turned away from the bath clutching his back with a rictus of old person pain contorting his features.

"What is it?"

"J'ai mal là et là et là"

"Ugh, me too"

We poke the children, all lithe-limbed and bouncy, in the general direction of bed, then slump uselessly on the sofa like a pile of old washing and watch Bones (Alexa, this is your fault. I keep surprising myself finding David Boringenaz mildly attractive and I blame you entirely.). Some of the corpses look more lively than we do. Even the ones in small pieces.

I should have been more careful. I should have gone to see the Dr Kevorkian of Knees for the injections that are so terrible you need an injection to endure them (TRUE). I should have taken the giant horse pills he prescribed me (a whole walrus skeleton in each one! Or something). I should have done more weight bearing exercise, eaten more dairy, kept up with stupid ass Power Plate. I should have spent my youth swimming and running and playing games with fast, terrifying balls with a magnetic attraction to my head instead of sitting hunched in a twisty knot on the sofa with a book and a paper bag of Yorkshire Mixture, the pointiest boiled sweets ever. When the time for hockey practice came, I was sitting eating Nutella on toast, watching Neighbours and sneering at anyone in a gym skirt and knee socks. Now it's payback time.

I put all my faith in Dr Kevorkian being as scalpel happy as his British colleagues, and replacing my knees with convenient silicone and steel castors, so I could roll around on them; like that man covered in roller blade wheels in the Paris métro. Pah. He is a RUBBISH orthopedic surgeon. Shouldn't he be sawing me apart in a macho fashion with blood and cartilege flying everywhere? Listening to hard rock? He should. I love general anasthetic too, it is so soothing and delicious, like floating on a an airborne pony made of marshmallows.

I hate getting older and faulty and the gradual tiny betrayals of my body.

It started with childbirth (MOTHERHOOD SPOILER ALERT: go and look at some baby animals now, anyone who doesn't have, but is planning to have children). I remember with total, horrible precision, hobbling painfully along to the loo, that first night after Lashes was born, pushing my new 9lb hairy alien along with me in its plastic fishtank to rest my weight on. I had never felt so weak and misshapen and BROKEN (umbilical hernia, separated abdominals, puffy, sweating, leaky, never wishing to poo again). I had to sit, gingerly, on the loo for twenty minutes to get the strength to go the hundred yards back to my bed. Nothing just snapped back as I had been promised, and as I had blithely assumed as a young, complacent primagravida.

Then I went and did it all over again, in a fourth floor flat with no lift, carrying the not yet toddler up the stairs balanced on the bump and dragging the pushchair behind me. Then carrying the baby on the front and the still not quite yet toddler on my back. That didn't help much.

Then Paris made it a hundred times worse. I can trace the worst of the decline to Paris. Paris gave me lines, pinched bits and shadows and a new set of aches. The constant attrition of a tantruming two year old in full ironing board mode, a newborn and a pushchair versus the métro, the impossibly tiny lift to the sixth floor flat that the pushchair didn't fit in, the assholes who park on the kerbs, the grass in the park the toddler isn't allowed to run on, the manège he doesn't want to get off. The soul-destroying grind of living in the city of light, being prodded out of the way by elderly ladies with murder in their eyes and pointy, pointy sticks. Bastards.

And now? Now nothing works as it should. I can't just run at full on weepette speed for the tram anymore, for fear of falling over. In any case, I can barely manage a stiff trot at the best of times. I am a wreck. A hobbity disintegrating wreck with holey tights.

Any suggestions? I am thinking a trip to some clinic in Lausanne where they will replace my body with that of some lovely muscular Swiss pentathlete. Either that or I will simply get an obliging Belgian surgeon to take my brain out and place it in a kilner jar until medical science can fix me.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

The week in review

I really don't know what happened to this weekend. I am reminded of our hilariously awful German client Herr Stegmayer on the Corridor of Ennui who once complained about our costs dealing with his crucial and sensitive fertiliser merger, citing our "needless physical presence" at meetings. Fingers and Lashes have decided that their needless physical presence is required on every part of my body and spirit. Right now, Fingers is lying heavily across my knees and upper arms fidgeting, while Lashes is playing Pokémon Diamond, with its special lift music soundtrack, milllimetres away from my right ear and thrusting his console into my face to hear the battle cry of his new Nostenfer (some species of purple, fanged bat). The CFO updates me every few seconds on how many tortoises he has managed to locate in the garden. Only the dog is peaceful having run its stupid bony legs off in circles at the hippie egg hunt (a week late to emphasise their strenuous pagan affinities), terrifying small children in chunky poo coloured hand knits and having to have chocolate rabbits pried from its jaws repeatedly.

(Just as an aside, there was a sub-group of hippies that 'ONLY eat organic' and consequently spent the Egg Hunt observing from a disapproving distance and only eating nettle soup (which, by the way, is the work of the devil. It tasted ok, but I have spent the rest of the day doubled up in nettle soup revenge crampiness). I am puzzled by this. Like, if there was nothing else, would they just suck their own white person dreadlocks for nourishment? Does this not seem a little, I don't know, precious? I am all for organic loveliness, but how to you raise it to the status of an immoveable dietary conviction? I have obviously lost touch with the Food Crazy.)

Consequently I have had NO TIME to prepare short films about waffle torment, or Dinner Now Fuck Fuck Fuck madrigals. But I will. Soon. Just as soon as I have found out how to get an hour to myself.

In the interim, what can we do that is low impact, rapid, effective blogging? Eh. Let's just review the week. You may do the same in the comments.


The CFO and I ride the horse of death back from Spa in the mist and the rain and the cold. On arrival home, mamie triumphantly demonstrates to me that she has taught Lashes to READ! Praise Nathan! This entitles her to lecture me very very frequently for the rest of the day on the correct place to put my finger when he is reading, what he must read, how he must hold a pen and many other topics related to my inadequacy as a parent. I do lots of deep breathing. In, out. In, out. Silver, gold, silver, gold.


Lashes is despatched to hippie school for cookery, theatre, cutting and sticking. Fingers refuses all attempts to persuade him to go to the gulag holiday club, where the infants salt mine is still working split shifts, so I work from home, with him under the table, poking the dog and rolling sellotape delicately all around my legs. I promise that if he is good and lets me work we will go to THE SCARY BAT CAVES, where a giant fruit bat dropped a quarter of apple on my head last summer, ageing me ten years in the process.

Trying to park near the hippies costs me my sanity and half a wing mirror. There is hyperventilating, and we go down a one way street backwards.


The yellow ball beams at us from the sky as Fingers and I do the shopping at Carrefour. We get overexcited and buy mountains of stationery, dog chews, plastic crap and nine thousand types of yoghurt to sacrifice to the fridge gods. We top off our joyous morning with a Magic Box at Queeeek, the fast food chain where hope comes to die. We chat happily about going to the Bat Caves. When dinnertime comes round we realise have bought nothing we actually want to eat. The CFO makes his usual meisterwerk, "Oncle Ben's Microwave Rice with lardons".


"Is it the BAT CAVES today? " clamours Fingers, but the CFO has stolen the car away for a hot date in Charleroi. "Tomorrow", I promise him, and we take the weepette on the tram to the park with the promise of the café, and of cake. The café is closed. It starts to rain. We get the tram back and go to the café near the house where Fingers has a muffin for lunch and pours a hot chocolate over my crotch.


After a full week of anticipation of THE BAT CAVES, we wake up to torrential, despairing rain. After an hour of anxious negotiating, I manage to crack a deal with Fingers where we go to the HELL POOL instead.

The Hell Pool is next to the Atomium, which is looking particularly fetching in the rain.

Ah, the Hell Pool, how do I love thee. After getting lost repeatedly on the ring road, the Hell Pool is packed with heavy petting, violent teens. I get into a squabble for a rubber ring. The chlorine makes us both hallucinate.

When I show this photo to M, she comments that there appears to be a murder happening in the background. We speculate whether this would make a good plot for an Agatha Christie style crime novel, and conclude that it wouldn't. Fingers is as unimpressed as I am, and we rapidly beat a retreat to .. Queeeek. By this point, although I am having a rather delightful time with Fingers, whose extraordinary self-contained confidence and beautiful, slightly furry cheeks I still worship creepily, I would pay CASH MONEY, up to and including €100 for an hour by myself.

We arrive home after I get us lost somewhere near the station just in time to set off for Performance Time at the hippies. Sadly, 'just in time' does not include 40 minutes looking for a parking space. We arrive in time for the last line (something to do with tongues?), and have to pretend we have seen the whole thing. Lashes looks vague and stiff in his sheet toga but is inordinately pleased to see us. He has made chicory stuffed with strawberries and mozarella. You can see from his expression what he thinks of this.

I am required to eat it. I would not do so again.

Dinner his a new low with pizza base topped with tomato sauce out of a jar and NOTHING ELSE. There is vodka, but not quite enough.


We invite Lashes' Friend Swearing Boy to the cinema (Monstres contre Aliens. Bof). Swearing boy swears floridly all the way there but I love him anyway, even before he tells me I am his favourite mother of all his friends. I love him because his household is basically a garrison full of shaven headed brothers, run by his authoritarian father, who is anti everything. I am convinced Swearing Boy will lead a rebellion against him soon. The CFO is looking very folorn, so I forswear the internet all day. I keep thinking we are about to have The Serious Talk, but we don't.

I make an industrially gigantic apple cake to take to the hippies, but General Franco, Swearing Boy's father, arrives at a crucial point, and I have to run around picking up pieces of rubbish that catch General Franco's eye. He has an odd habit of standing, arms folded, in the hallway, pointing out the messier parts of my house to his boys ("Look, Daniel, there is a chocolate wrapped on the floor!"). I expect it is part of a lesson he teaches his troops when he gets home ("THAT is what comes of living like a communist! Playing cards on the floor! Tortoises! Shoes not neatly lined up. It's anarchy, boys").

The cake turns out like an apple topped house brick. Hippies like that kind of thing though. Don't they? It turns out that Fingers has eaten twice his bodyweight in cake mixture while I am picking things up from around Franco's feet, probably more nutrients than he has ingested in the rest of the week.


Ready, steady, hippy! Man, these hippies are DECIDEDLY NOT MELLOW. There are cliques, and factions, and there are frequent outbursts of whispering in corners. There is even crying. I feel a little disillusioned. Where is the love, hippies? It is pretty though. Look, here the CFO is listening to a tale of fury and boundaries, but look how beautiful the garden is. La la, pretty things.

Haiku form summary of the week:

Bats flutter unseen
Biscuits must have nutrients
Dried snouts give solace

Over to you.

Friday, 17 April 2009

Keyword art

Every day the keyword searches leading here cause me serious disquiet. But I am convinced they also offer fertile ground for FASCINATING CREATIVE ENDEAVOURS. Below, I have listed some of my favourite keyword searches of the last few months and I would like you to suggest what medium you think your favourite phrase below lends itself to (poetry, sculpture, cake, street theatre, vegetable, scientific experiment etc). I will select the best ones and execute them, Belgian Waffle style. Don't say video, because I don't know how. Or if you do, then you have to hold my hand throughout the entire process.

Ok? Ok! Keyword art is go*!

lizard karate on times

slime coat on sausage in fridge?

www invented french porno

lorraine kelly mid life tv crisis april 2009

nightshade beer

what are the macaroon style small round biscuits marks and spencer give with coffee and tea in its cafes?

waffle fail

woman pees on a busy tram

the history of belgium waffles

flushing toilet hong kong science museum

belgian girls 33 years old the like to have fucking where ass or ...

i like rusty spoons not on youtube

tarantula spawn

what type of owl lives in la verne

naked balgian man

japanese ladies remove armpit

ben10 toys sad zara

pictures of men swimming in water or mud wearing dirty wet shirt,tie,trousers and a opened jacket

waffles torment me in my sleep

basingstoke erotic

corsets 14yo

women in puffa jackets wallpaper

cabbage for triops

colour of tortoise faeces

Belgian pouffy

what happens if dogs eat waffles

French pole vaulter runs naked uncensored

dink toed

oliver james cortisol

dinner now fuck fuck fuck

(ps - If anyone will actually admit to being responsible for any of these searches they will get special consideration)

* Update: Vic has drawn my attention to the keyword poem she wrote, which is really beautiful. You should all go read it.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Dried groins

There is very little to say about this. The people have spoken.

You cannot imagine the horror with which the CFO has greeted the advent of snouts in our lives.
"C'est comme un abbatoir ici!" he says, holding up ears, and gesticulating at the snouts with a buffalo hide bone. He is SO wet. What kind of Frenchman IS he? I cry fraud.

I will say that I have a sneaking respect for "varkensnoet" as a word. Ok, it's not "groin". But, varkensnoet! Jesuzeman, you varkensnoet.

The weepette is going through a phase of intense melancholy brought on by separation from his ginger sausage girlfriend. He basically hates us all, which is fine, since it manifests in sitting sulkily in his favourite chair disdaining everything. If he had a sad, faded panda hoodie he would be wearing it. If he was allowed to eat giant slabs of cooking chocolate and drink cheap supermarket tequila with no label lemonade because he can't be bothered to find any decent mixers, he would be doing so. But he isn't. He can barely stir his sticklike legs to pee on the kitchen floor. The varkensnoets helped slightly.

Before (in melancholy gay porn centerfold style):

(Oscar-watchers will note that he is CHANGING COLOUR. Where did the whole, grey belly thing come from? Can I send him back? Has the statutory exchange period expired, or can I still swap him for a pony? Also, check out those downy peanuts, fellow dogpervs)


A definite lightening of the expression.

Though not here.

Just leave me with my varkensnoet. No, I don't want to talk about it. Just, go, OK? I'm fine. FINE.

In other news, there is no other news. The hippies have not yet killed Lashes, though they have convinced him he must never wear green as it is POISON (they are theatrical hippies). Fingers poured a whole hot chocolate over my crotch this afternoon and I was actually wearing matching underwear for once. There's probably a lesson there, and it's probably something to do with hubris. I have nearly lost about fifty three wing mirrors in my death-defying processions backwards and forwards across Brussels this week. I have not read, or written, a word all week Tomorrow we go to the bat caves.

But hey! I have found somewhere where you can listen to Sloane Crosely read her essay, The Pony Problem, all free and for nothing like. There's even a bonus YouTube video of her making her diorama thing because she is a total CRAFT NINJA. It is great. Never say I don't give you anything.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Snouts are the new ears

Here we still are.

What can I possibly find to tell you? This (admittedly oddly pleasant) child wrangling hiatus is even less interesting than me navel gazing. Oh! We found a multipack of dried snouts in Carrefour for the weepette that were obscurely entertaining, but Fingers would not even let me near the camera in case it distracted me from snack duty. Whenever I edged, cautiously, towards the laptop he would summon me back to lay out his biscuit collection by size and colour, or crueller still, commandeer the computer for the dark, dark works of Playhouse Disney.

When not busy bending me to his will, Fingers drew Steve Green, the Stegosaurus. As a stalling mechanism it was of limited success since it was the work of seconds, but we were both pleased with the result.

Steve (and Dave, frequent commenter on these pages):

Life According to Dinosaurs is horribly popular with the spawn. It's the combination of mindless violence and exotic, English swearing ("you ate my arm, ya green fucker!"). They don't know which the English bad words are, but they know they are in there, since I have mentioned it in an unguarded moment. Lashes is desperate to know.

"Is it 'kill' maman? Or 'chess'?"

"No. I'm not going to tell you anyway, you hear enough swearing as it is"

"But what IS it? I won't say it ever I promise"

"It's something I say all the time, so it's hardly new to you"


"No, not that one. STOP ASKING"

As for Lashes, today he made a draughts board with beer capsules for pawns at the house of hippie. Beer capsules play a central rôle in all Belgian cutting and sticking type projects. There's a reason why this:

is a common sight in Brussels' car boot sales. Otherwise I am none the wiser as to what happens at hippie summer school, though I have noticed that the hippies see fit to just allow their charges to wander off into the public park outside at the end of the day with no supervision whatsoever. I am torn between respecting - admiring even - their trusting stupidity, and atavistic fear that my child will be the one who decides to lie down in the road for a bet. Tomorrow I expect they will provide them all with a packet of Rizlas and an eighth of decent grass.

The whole thing is slightly reminiscent of the deprived kids club I used to go to in York (single parent = deprivation in early 80s North Yorkshire). They were always taking us on half-arsed coach trips to local sites of interest and forgetting half of us in Knaresborough, where we would have to find our own way to the nearest police officer and explain our predicament. It was tremendously character building, and noone actually died, to my knowledge.

There's something about this unseasonally warm weather and aimlessness that reminds me of being seven myself. I can't believe the freedom I had - particularly since I think of my mother as being a superlative worrier - even outside of the Terrifying Club for Latchkey Kids Who Wanted To Beat Me To Pulp. I spent the rest of my time roaming around between the seven sweet shops in the Groves, eking out 8p on Cowans Highland Toffee and and trying to poison Alice Gladwin's next door neighbour with midget gems mixed with Baby Bio because we had decided he was a spy. Or taking the rabbit for walks on a lead to the City Walls. Or just wandering aimlessly around the lanes of York in the summer evening pretending to be a pony. I would love Lashes to have that slightly terrifying freedom and you know, I think I trust him not to be any more of an idiot than the next 7 year old. Bring it on, hippies. Do what I don't quite dare to. Give him a jumbo box of matches and a tram pass. Set him free!

Tell me in the comments whether you want to see dried snouts. Cassandra, I am giving you a chance to rock the no vote here. Use it wisely.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Tuesday with Fingers

I am spending the week with Fingers whilst simultaneously trying to keep up with my ennui duties, due to being too lazy and half arsed to find anything for him to do this week. It has started well.

"Have you washed today?" he asks me as I block his passage to the world sugary cereal mountain and force him to give me a squeeze when he comes downstairs.

"No. Do I smell bad?"

"Un peu".

"Oh. Maybe it's my jumper?" I suggest hopefully.

"No. Your jumper smells nice. You smell bad".

"Do I smell worse than Oscar?"


"Should I wash?"

"Yes. But first make me petite crêpes with Nutella"

He's lovely company, if a little imperious, and we share a love of frequent biscuit based snack breaks and poking the dog gently. He has a way better work ethic than I do though. As I write he is industriously making an ant hill in the garden with a stick and the mighty force of his will. He has already steamrollered me into giving him pretty much everything he wants. I fear slightly for the rest of the week. We have made a firm date to go to the Scary Bat Caves (home of the escapee capybaras) one day, but apart from that I think I get to dance attendance on him, holding out a variety of beverages and biscuits with faces.

Lashes drew the short straw this week with compulsory attendance at the Stage That Is Not Butch Enough. Today he told me with total despair that they had cooked something with chicon, tomato and cheese (the trifecta of terror!) and he had been forced to taste it. He has been tight lipped about what else was involved, but having seen the medieval cowhide footwear and drapery the tremendously enthusiastic be-scarved organiser women were sporting, I fear kickboxing is unlikely to form a large part of the curriculum. He looked at me like this:

Or like this:

but it won't get him anywhere. One chocolate wafer eating zombie child in the house at the time is plenty.

Fingers, sensing his inhabitual triumph, prances around plucking dandelions, playing with the elaborate chick playground the two of them have constructed from a loo roll, some feathers, an old pencil and some elastic bands and wrapping Oscar in my cashmere scarf like a particularly daring Isadora Duncan, fluttering his fingers and singing small songs.

Occasionally he stops to tell me something, often about snails or clouds. Or what ended up in the hedge one Tuesday in November and whose fault it was. Or this:

"Mamie told me she thinks I am ten times as beau when my nose is clean".

I disagree.

(Blogging will probably be rubbish as a result for the rest of the week. Except for the bat caves).

Monday, 13 April 2009

In which I fail to have an entertainingly awful time

We had a good time in Spa. How boring is that? So I had to force the CFO to go to what was optimistically described as the "Antiques Fair" for cheap visual laughs. It did not disappoint.

They like dolls. Or perhaps they don't.

I took a picture of this delightful tableau initially that I was very happy with, but when I showed it to the CFO he said, "no, you can't tell it's been scalped. Do it again". I love how he is always striving for excellence.

Again, here he said "make sure you can tell those are its eyes".

This one is specially for Antonia. These fuckers are up to no good. They are plotting their next armed raid on the local night shop.

In the end the joke was on us, when we both ended up buying things. I bought a plush Bulbasaur. €3. (CFO: "you HAVE to negotiate! Otherwise you aren't respecting the marketplace! It's disrespectful to accept his first price!"). Then the CFO bought a slightly too small all in one motorcycle waterproof suit thing from a decayed gentleman who looked like Serge Gainsbourg's more disreputable (yes, imagine) brother. For €15. (Me: "did I just imagine that conversation about my Bulbasaur?"). We placed the Bulbasaur on top of the tv and it looked witheringly at us when we watched shitty tv. I barely missed Oscar at all as a result.

The Spa of Spa was peaceful and beautiful. Look!

And the view from that pool thingy:

Look. Misty. Atmospheric. It felt a little like a nineteenth century sanatorium for consumptives but with more heavy petting. We were both astonished by how apparently arousing the spa users found the facilities. " Eeeeugh. Do they not have hot water at home?" I said with the classic British combination of disgust and compulsive curiosity, peeping through my fingers and grimacing. "Imagine what Friday night must be like" said the CFO shaking his head grimly.

Imagine, indeed what the "Cérémonie Inférnale" in the Sauna Naturiste might be. Or not.

There was one tricky moment when someone's sticking plaster ended up stuck to my finger. Brrrr. But the quasi-miraculous appearance of a temporary cocktail bar serving violet mojitos ably helped me forget Plastergate, and several of the less well-advised pairs of swimming trunks on show. The nudists had their own section behind a large metal gate and the CFO could not be convinced at any price to go and peep.

"Pourquoi? C'est étrange, j'en vois strictement pas l'interêt" ('Why? It's weird, I don't see the point')

"Because I am British and am therefore simultaneously repelled and pruriently fascinated by nudity" I should have said. In fact I said "moi non plus" ('nor do I') and shut up, regretfullly.

Given the absence of nudity, fighting, or other noteworthy hideousness, I felt compelled to take a picture of this packet of cakes.

Good holidays make for bad blogging. Sorry.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Step away from the Harpic-tini

Given that neither rabbits nor bells are acceptable in this house, can you suggest some alternative bringers of Easter trans fats? If it can also double up as the entity that replaces teeth with money (instead of the mouse/fairy), so much the better. So far I have:

The Easter Swiss guy from the Lindt adverts (like a creepy Swiss Santa)

The Easter tortoise (obvious, but I feel effective, with little paniers of eggs either side of its shell)

The Easter glockenspiel (because it's a good word)

The Easter stag beetle (carrying confectionery between its antlers)

The Easter zombie (self-evident)

The Easter capybara (sturdy)

The Easter Beard.

I am quite excited at the idea of the Easter Beard. I can imagine a jewel coloured cluster of eggs nestling in its hairy embrace as the Beard shuffles from house to house amazing the children with its constantly replenished supply of chocolate goodness.

Alright, alright, I'll stop drinking Cilit Bang now.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Belgian Waffle Easter Treasure Hunt Quiz Thing

Here is your Belgian Waffle Easter treasure hunt. It's a bit crapola because I am a bit drunk on warm rosé and ice cream (yes, ice cream can make you drunk in the right circumstances. Don't argue with a slightly drunk panda who hasn't moved in days) and the CFO is watching Kitchen Nightmares really loud ("there will be strong language" I warn him "Channel 4 says so. That doesn't mean shackass". "Pff", he scoffs "I got a formal written warning for saying 'fuck' last year"). Bear with me.

The challenge is as follows.

1. You must locate these three chicks on these pages by following my clues. I have hidden them in old posts and I don't know how you will find them. I have not thought this through at all. Ah, well. Um, I will give you the month to make it easier. Ready? Ready! Yeah.

April 2009

Garment for a guru

February 2009

Made out of lips and testicles

January 2009

C'est quoi un weepette?

2. Suggest three people who ought to join the Belgian government. They need not be Belgian or politicians. Give reasons for your answer.

3. Complete the following tie breaker:

Capybaras are the best kind of rodents because .....

The winner, to be decided entirely arbitrarily by me, will win some Belgian stuff. Good, high quality stuff that does not come out of my cupboard full of shit.

Go! Run, my little ones!

Friday, 10 April 2009

Spa Weekend

I am going on a Spa break.

That sounds better than it should. It is a break to the town of Spa in the Ardennes, and there is a danger it will be more like a Spar break.

The good news

It is just me and the CFO. The children are staying with mamie and papie and enjoying Easter the cocotte minute way.

Spa is, indeed a spa town and features some kind of spa type thing, with hatchet faced women with hosepipes and a large open air bubbling pool of insanitariness. I love this kind of thing and ever since we met, I have been dragging the CFO to weirdly medicalised places all over France full of retired teachers in plastic sandals and robes. He goes out and does manly things with pieces of rope, and I allow myself to be hosed down with cold water, forced to walk in small circles up to my thighs in freezing cold water, and wear inflatable boots (see above).

The hotel looks blandly pleasant in a 'no need to go out and do anything, can just watch tv and read and order overpriced room service' way.

The bad news

We have to go there on le démon du midi, because the bastard weather forecast is making out it will be fine tomorrow. The CFO wishes to believe, so he can go vroom vroom. I know the truth. I remember going from London to Brighton on a motorbike and never being so cold in all my life. Yes, I am a wet and a weed. Also, qui dit motorbike, dit no baggage. No laptop. No shoes. No consolations at all.

It's just me and the CFO. What if we get distracted and forget we mustn't talk about Things? I must make a list of distracting conversational topics for quiet moments. Hopefully the fellow residents of CrazyAimAHosepipeAtMyBumSpa will provide sufficient distraction. Especially if they have interesting facial hair. I live in hope.

The worst thing ever in the world

I discover, far too late, that the Spa of Spa is part nudist.

Naked people. Naked Walloons.


I will be back on Monday and I am bringing the camera, because I suspect this will need documenting. I will also post some kind of stupid easter competition in my absence. I hope the bells come for you*.

(*There is no Easter bunny in France and Belgium. "Les cloches" bring the chocolate back from Rome. Eh??? Do NOT get me started. Also, not the tooth fairy, but the tooth MOUSE.

Me: Where do the bells PUT the chocolate?

CFO: What?

Me: They don't even have any bloody arms.

CFO: Votre lapin, non plus, il n'a pas de bras. (your rabbit doesn't either)

Me: No, he has a basket. DUH.

CFO: Maybe les cloches have a basket?

Me: That's just stupid. Maybe they fly back upside down with the chocolate inside them?

CFO: No, they can't do that, because they ring at the same time.

Me: Oh for god's sake. Let's stick with the damn bunny.)

Happy Easter!

Lauren Laverne gets paid to do this in Grazia.

Today isn't really happening yet, so as a temporary stop gap can I recommend you take a look at the following?

'Tweet like Tim Westwood day' is just killing me (but it won't if you've never heard him speak. This might help. This is even better.)

As, in a different way, is Schumtzie's spoof William Carlos Williams post. Go. Compose alexandrines. Laugh.

I don't know if you've explored my blogroll recently, but can I recommend 2 fairly recent discoveries?

Not Waving but Drowing - this woman has had a seriously interesting life and she writes very affectingly about her life her husband, recently diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (a sort of pre-Alzheimers), her (and his) family, and living in a tiny village in France.

Steam me Up Kid - Steamy is so funny it's slightly unfair, I think, on the rest of us. And then, damn her, she goes and writes something clever and moving about her father because one outrageous talent is not enough for her. Then, on top of that, she turns her most recent post into a genre-busting 'blogventure'. STOP IT. It's just greedy. Noone likes a show off, Steamy. You Have Been Warned.

You could do worse than read some Don Marquis on a sunny Friday. I like The Lesson of the Moth (and it makes me feel bad about my various crimes against moths) and we read The Song of Mehitabel at my mother's funeral. It was my brilliant sister's idea. Toujours gai.

Then, can I recommend you listen to this for pure joy.

I will be back. Promise. But my whole life smells of dog food right now and I have to do something about it, because the scent of dead voles is really not a spur to creativity.

Thursday, 9 April 2009

The internet is the human equivalent of rubbing your arse on a tree*

I am starting to think I may be a panda. I already have the impressively low libido, and now, watching this clip (watch the clip. You have to watch the clip. Just the first minute - by 54 seconds you've seen all you need to), I discover that "Pandas must avoid energy sapping encounters with other pandas". This would explain why I am developing the classic home worker's aversion to leaving the house, which combined with my phone phobia adds up to panda-dom. Then, when I saw this clip, and the pathetic squealing creature, unable to summon the energy to climb a flight of stairs, it was like looking a mirror (without the whole, adorable, furry thing).

The parallel is imperfect. Firstly, the reason the panda must avoid "energy sapping encounters" is its low calorie diet. This is not a problem with a diet of crème caramel and mini eggs. Second, the cuteness. I am not cute, though I would like to point out that today I have washed and dressed. I even found some moisturiser when I was looking for my cash card (no, no luck)

You have by now watched the clip (yes, you have. If not, go and watch it). I would like to posit a theory that Twitter and Facebook are the human equivalent of pandas rubbing their bits against a tree. The panda, the soporific voice of David Attenborough murmurs, sniffs the tree trunk for signals of what has been going on in its peer group whilst it has been dozing and chewing bamboo in its stakhanite fashion. Rather than going and interacting with actual other pandas, it just sniffs the tree. Then, it, in turn, rubs its head or bottom, depending on how athletic it is feeling, on the tree to leave its own "message" for the group. You see where I am going with this? If I were Alain de Botton, someone would pay me to write a book about this. You KNOW it's true. It would be called something like "Bamboo generation: how panda social media is killing conversation". And there would be a soulful author photo of me, bald, ponderous and bespectacled, looking like someone who was frequently placed in bins by bullies at school, holding out a shoot of bamboo.

Now here is a picture of some Belgian graffiti, so we can pretend I have left the house today.

If I put two pictures, you'll think I went out twice, right? Look, this one is taken from veerrry verrry far away, as if , say using a telephoto lens out of a window, say, maybe from my front room?

Shackass, hoist by my own petard.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Modulated elastocompression

Close encounters on the 92, an occasional series

We might need a whole new label, 'Tram encounters'. No, don't get too excited, this one was merely ridiculous.

I am on tram, reading a book that is making me laugh, but also feel bitterly jealous as the author is only 26, the bastard, and his book is funny and clever and rude. A man sits down next to me. He is moderately cute. Black, late twenties, nice face. No, I told you, don't get excited. He is a sleazy chancer.

Opposite me a pretty girl in her late teens is doing Sudoku puzzles. He leans over to her.

"Euh, excusez moi?"

She looks up, half apprehensive, half stabby. I wonder if she is English.

"What is that, you're doing?"

She holds up her Sudoku book questioningly.

"This? Sudoku."

"But, what is it? Because, I'm doing a finance course, but I'm not very good at numbers. I wondered if this would help"

She explains, kindly, patiently the principle of Sudoku. Not English then. He asks lots of imbecile questions (do I add them up, where do I get it, is there only one answer, where do I get it, will it help my maths). He is still going strong when we get to my stop, so I squeeze past. It transpires he's getting off too. He looks at me. I am carrying a motorcycle helmet.

"Oh! I thought it was a baby!"

"No. It would have had to be a very tiny baby" (he is worse than our neighbour who thinks Fingers is a girl, and my rollerblades are a dog).

I head off down the road, past the kebaborama shop and the bars d'ecureuils.

"Euuuh, mademoiselle?"

Uh oh.

"Are you a styliste?"

Eh? What makes you think that baby helmet Sudoku man? The stylish way my hem is coming down? The coffee stain on my jacket? Or the gaping hole in my shoe? I try not to laugh too openly.

"No. I'm a lawyer". I find this is usually quite off-putting. Sadly, not here.

"Aha! You can defend me!"

Urgh. "No. I can't. I am trying to give up being a lawyer for Lent".

"Are you French?"


"You don't have a Belgian accent"

Thank Nathan for that. "I'm English"

"Ah! Une anglaise!" he looks disturbingly animated.

"I am going this way". I point to one of the 800 pharmacies on the street "For my diseases. Byee"

"Can I have your number?"

Aaaah! Flee, flee the crazy optimist!

Continued adventures in cellulite

I have just composed the most ridiculous email of my life in an attempt to blag free cellulite pants, as showcased, apparently, by Lorraine Kelly. The pants are the brain child of renowned and not even SLIGHTLY fictitious plastic surgeon Professore Marco Gasparotti. Their pseudo science is most pleasing. Check it out:

"At the best we can also suppose an effect on lipolysis of modulated elastocompression; it would be the consequence of a minor staunching of the interstitial liquids and so of an easier reaching of lipolitic hormones (thyroid-catecolamine…) from the vessel bed directly to the adipociti.
It follows that the sheath operates on the etiopatogenesis of the pannicolopatia fibroedematosclerotica, also called cellulites, that is nothing else but a "Modification of the adipose connective tissue due to a reduced lymphatic and venous microcirculation in the subcutaneous area, with oedema and consequent constriction of the adipociti for the increase of interstitial liquid of the intercellular fibrous septa

Is this not poetic? This hymn to hope and stupidity?

Also, one of the layers of the pants is called "3D Wave" and is made of silver ions and pixies. I want these pants like I have never wanted anything before. I want the loooong version that goes down to your ankles. I would never take them off. I guarantee, here, before all of you and Nathan, that I will do a full photo post if I can persuade Professor Gasparotti to send me some. Before and After. And During.

My email read:

"Dear Professor Gasparotti,

I have a weblog read by many women and having recently posted a piece on cellulite, your very interesting product was brought to my attention. I would be very keen to test the pants (ideally the long Elite model) and will give you an honest write up.

Do let me know if you are able to provide me with samples.



I will let you know if I ever hear back.

This is all I have for you today. I am still in my pyjamas and have had a crème caramel, a café liegois and a packet of mini eggs for breakfast/lunch (the distinction was a little fluid) and I have watched a baby panda sneeze (yeah, ok, I am very backwards, you all knew about the baby panda years ago) about eight hundred times. It is half past six in the evening. I think we can declare my home working day a resounding success. M would be proud.