Friday, 31 July 2009

Confession fail

My confessions:

1. I am very tired and pathetic after spending the week drinking cocktails and tottering round London inappropriately dressed. It is also very late since I have just got back to Brussels (and why does the house smell of sileage? Perhaps best if I don't enquire too closely. Is that even how you spell it? Silage/Sileage? Countryfolk?) on the last train AND I had to find a cash machine AND my taxi smelled like something had died in there and not too recently. As a consequence this will be a SHIT confessional, and I have no idea when I will be able to dispense penance. So. I suggest either you turn on each other and establish some kind of comments box martial law, or you go all Opus Dei on me and punish YOURSELVES.

Actually, no. I have a better idea: we should leave penance in the hands of the monsters from the Guardian's guide to Monsters of Greek Mythology.

Which guest confesser will you choose?

Will it be number 1: Tennis skirt wearing, baby wielding cow?

Number 2: "Holy fuck Leo, I TOLD you not to let the cubs swim in that power station effluent"

Number 3: "My tail is the least of your worries"

Or my personal favourite, Number 4: Dignified tentacle chicken head dragon?

I will eventually waft back like a wrathful deity and do some smiting, but the CFO will be up at 5 tomorrow twitching and prodding me until we set off (probably at 6h30 if I am lucky) to 'avoid the worst of the traffic' (for which read: 'arrive 3 hours early').

2. I haven't finished M's work and she is going to kick my ass.

3. All of my meals today have been cake. Not even good cake, most of it.

4. I am suffering the sin of despair faced with two weeks of dubious or nil connectivity in the Normandy countryside. Noone knows whether there is an internet connection, but I have dark fears. The Normandy countryside is essentially unchanged since the Bayeux Tapestry, but with more shotguns and pyschotropic medicines. I do not know if I am strong enough to withstand this. Actually, who the fuck am I kidding, I know perfectly well that I will need to be under heavy sedation after three days cold turkey. I am weaselling around to find the best way to evade this.

Huh. I told you it would be shit. Also, I have actually been quite well behaved this month so big fat gold star for me. Or maybe a big fat kick from the chicken tentacle dragon, I will let you be the judge.

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Tawdry shallow shopping stories

Time is short, braincells are few and far between, I am still approximately 76% cocktail (and shortly to engineer a top up in a bar that promises bacon flavoured popcorn, apparently) but I must tap out a few halting sentences for you, because I have a compulsion and all that. Please, if any of you see M, don't tell her I am doing this because she is waiting for me to write something for her, and she has already called me "punk ass" and mentioned something about "encule"ing Thursday and I am quite scared of her.

Where was I? Oh yes, compulsion, writing. I have bought some stuff. I thought I could tell you about it, because I am extremely shallow and that kind of thing makes me happy.

First I bought books. Books are NOT shallow, and because I was drunk shopping I appear to have believed myself to have some sort of intellectual standards. Rather than buying something with a nice cover and a decent review on the back, I have bought two books of poetry (I KNOW. Poetry normally scares me) Louis MacNeice and the collected Auden (after Prog Rock's extensive quoting made me cry). I have bought Susie Orbach's Bodies (that is the name of the book, I have not actually visited her self-service mortuary) and I have bought an interesting book about how awful the French are by LucyWadham (ok, she probably wouldn't agree with that pithy summary). The former has a slight hint of the Oliver James in its assertion that the way you were handled and treated in infancy overwhelmingly informs your attitude to your body, but Orbach manages to present this in a much more thoughtful, less judgmental way. She has lips, too. Also there are case studies which are good for the terminally shallow and easily distracted like me. The Secret Life of the French was very evocative for me, since Wadham has lots of anecdotes about weeping in Paris as a young mother when everyone was being horrible to her that could have been drawn straight from my life (except noone invited me to discreet orgies, I was more often in pitched battle with the dry cleaner).

Next, I bought Girl Stuff you can't get in Belgium - ridiculous snake oil body creams (I am ashamed to say I have bought something called "Bottoms Up! A Butt Lift in a Box". My mind becomes a frothing mass of desire when I see the (made up) word "Adiposlim" and the promise "Zap Cellulite" even though the only thing it is actually proven to do is make me £99 poorer), Armani cosmetics (they are absolute best for me. Number 21 sheer lipstick is genius, as is the Face Fabric foundation), Origins Ginger Body Scrub. I have been applying them one on top of the other until they all peel off in unappealing grey flakes. I really do know how to live.

Finally, having very sweetly been gifted a ticket to a Stella McCartney private sale, my brain went into meltdown at the outrageously good reductions (80% off!) and the heady promise of the second floor "VIP Room" (ha) and I bought a dress. A nice black dress. But! This dress is the clothing equivalent of advanced Sudoku. Initially, it took me about ten minutes to work out how to get it over my head (in a communal changing room with several coltish moddle types). It has several layers and loops and decoy sleeves. I made an attempt to put it on and looked at myself in the mirror. It looked like I had a family of flying foxes hanging off my chest in a way that might have been ridiculous, or might have been merely edgy. I was unable to establish which so turned to a salesgirl for help.

"Am I doing this right?"

"No. It goes like this, then this, then this". With amazing sleight of hand she bundled me up into the dress in an entirely different way. It was a definite improvement, with only 2 flying foxes decorously draped at the front. However, the sleeves were definitely cutting my circulation off.

"The sleeves are meant to be tight"

"Oh, Ok".

The rush of blood to the head caused by dress wrestling and the reduced circulation to my arms caused me to buy it. I will post a picture soon if I able to get it on by myself, and if I can't, I'll post a picture of myself trussed up ineptly in a cocoon of material. But EIGHTY PERCENT OFF.

I don't think this blog will be branching out into product reviews any time, will it? Belgian Waffle! Almost guaranteed not to sell your product!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

I meet the Internet, Part 1

You know how, usually I spend my weeks crouched in the squalor of our back room in front of an overheating laptop? With only forty three bags of chocolate buttons and a sad eyed weepette for company? Well not this week.

In the last week, I have been Meeting The Internet. This is the first in an occasional series when I try to exit my hermitage and communicate other than through a series of wordless grunts. Very occasional. My face is hurting from all the actual words I have been forced to form using muscles in it. Also, I can't imagine it can have been very edifying for the internet (sorry, internet).

Let me summarise thus far.


The victim: M
The location: Various sites, Paris
Consumed: every cake in Paris, noodles, stolen truffles (E: Ooh are these all for us? M: Er, no dude E: Oh well, too late now), a cocktail made out of liquidised Mr Kipling cakes.
Sample conversation:
"Ugh, that white dread is slithering down the street after you! Imagine it crawling into your eye socket!"
"It's gone up your nose and INTO YOUR BRAIN. Cockstump"


The victim: Lydia
The location: The Parc d'Egmont, Brussels
Consumed: Chocolat chaud
Sample conversation:
"So are you SURE I can't do the wielding of giant mechanical arms and hitting people with dried herrings at the leper festival?"
"Quite sure. Now how will I obtain a Chartreux potato cat when I speak no French?"


The victims: Mrs Trefusis, The Artichoke Queen
Location: Tinis, Walton Street, London
Consumed: Cocktails, various. Sushi, mountains.
Sample conversation:
"I can't feel my head anymore"
[Apologies, I have only a hazy recollection of this. Think cackling harridans and the kind of thing that cackling harridans talk about. Only Mrs Trefusis is far too elegant to cackle.]


The victim: Lucy with a Y
Location: South Bank
Consumed: Noodles, a "Canadian margarita" [Ed's note: not wholeheartedly recommended. Vanilla tequila, lime, maple syrup, cinammon sugar, Beavers, Lumberjacks. Smelt like a cheap Christmas candle, tasted of 1950s cough syrup before they realised so much alcohol might not be good for babies]
Sample conversation:
"So I said to her 'There is no way I am taking delivery of a box of ferrets until I know precisely why he wants them'"


The victim: Robbie
Location: Patisserie Valerie
Consumed: A shitty cappucino (Pat Val! What happened?)
Sample conversation:
"A greek chorus of blog commenters? With funny glasses?"
"Show me the live Great Dane board game again"

And more tomorrow. Beware, internet. I have left my grotto! I am attempting to socialise! It will end verrrry verrrry badly.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Fete Roundup Week 2, Part II

The divinely inspired Mrs Trefusis has put together a predictably elegant and literary Fête entry. She is on her own in Dorset with two children and has to go to the Coop to fetch her own wine. Yet even so, she has managed to come up with this heartbreakingly beautiful and detailed set of literary dioramas. The work comes in several parts and is entitled "Great Works of Literature Get You Into Trouble" .

[This entry falls in the "Miscellaneous" class, so is up against Derek the Boring Bird. The competition is HOTTING UP, I tell you. ]

Part I: Tess of the D'Urbervilles

Part II: A la Recherche de Temps Perdu

Part III: Julius Caesar

Part IV: Paradise Lost

Part V: Inferno

Part VI: Beowulf

Which is your favourite? Vote! Also, do put any questions for the artist on the media used in the comments.

In addition, I have an initial attempt at a first entry from the Waffledome in the 'Pet' category.

This is entitled "Tortoise Pétanque"

Hmm. We tried. But those bastards are FAST.

The Capybara Clinic

At last! Doctor Capybara has emerged from his burrow and he is Not. Amused. Anyone who dared bother him with a question, here are your answers. And don't say we didn't warn you.

Dear Dr Capybara,

I've been seeing Thomasina (name changed for personal safety) for about 5 weeks. She is dull and a bit weird and might be getting a bit too attached. But the sex is good and regular. How long is it ok to sleep with her before I become a cad? Or is it ok to be a cad, what with the swine flu, the recession, England winning the Ashes and all.

West London

Dear Jim,
"The sex is good and regular". What are you, 73? Go get yourself a real affair and come back when you have something interesting to say for yourself. And NO, that doesn't involve cricket.


Dr Cap,
Two questions have been troubling Tigerbaps for some time.

1) If helium is lighter than air, is it free to post a helium balloon? (inflated, and if size doesn’t matter)

2) Is there *really* a god? If so, why would he make you look like that? Why Dr Cap? Is it that thing where if somebody’s fat you can say (oh but she’s got such a pretty face and she’s sooo cheery) or if you’re ugly, people say ‘yes but they’re so kind hearted and cheery’ I’m not saying you’re ugly, but I’ve put your photo on the mantelpiece to keep the weans away from the fire.

Thanks Dr Cap – look forward to your considerations.

Moist Regards


Dear Tigerbaps,

1) Everyone knows helium is only good for imitating chipmunk voices. Are you a chipmunk? If so, get out of my sight.

2) No, there is no god. Gods are mere crutches to give meaning to your petty bourgeois existences. "Mantelpiece". Pah. PS: your cat will eat YOUR face when you die old and alone.

3) "Moist". You might want to have that looked at. I can prescribe an ointment.


Dear Dr C,

I pine for life in another country, one that offers nationalized health care and ten, I mean six, weeks of vacation. Barring that I pine for life in the city instead of the country, where I might have access to exotic foods and Swedish mass-produced furniture. But even if I were to find a job in another country, my husband would be miserable and I would miss my family; and I cannot afford to move to the city. What should I do?


Small Country Rodent

Dear Small Country Rodent,

Stop whining?


Dear Dr. C,

There is a man who seems v interested in me but keeps canceling dates. Is it permissible to cut his nuts off?

DS Club Member

Dear DS Club Member,

But of course, dear lady. You are a woman after my own heart. Are you furry and disapproving?


Cher Dr. Capy

Je m'appelle Gerald. I am la fouine who occupies the roof space of tortuous, loud, frequently stinky out of city famille. The breeding season, c'est maintenant...these espece de peau du porc leave me no peace..du conseil?

Dear Gerald,

I have no idea what you are talking about. You are wasting my time, and everybody else's time.

Kind regards,

Dr C.


Dear Dr Capybara

My ex husband broke up with his girlfriend and has rented a flat on my street. The SAME street we lived in together. I find this so bonkers as to be amusing. But what do you advise?


Dear Randall,

You obviously have me confused for a real estate agent. Punk.


Dear Dr Capybara,

I send my long distance lover erotic photos of me in my underwear, and he sends back short, terse messages about his grouting and vermin problems . Is he just not that into me?

Pathetic Female

Dear Pathetic Female,

Also, remove your socks when taking erotic photos of yourself.
You will do us all a favour.


Dear Dr Capybara

Can you play cricket for us today? My team is two men short.



Dear Robbie

Dr Capybara does not believe in cricket. It is entirely imaginary. However, he does believe in tea and cake. In fact, he is going to have some now. Out of my way, you foppish punk.

Saturday, 25 July 2009

Fête Roundup, Week 2

In the absence of Dr Capybara, unaccountably missing, I can at least give you a couple more fête entries to admire. [Call me, Doctor Capybara! We can sort this out! I give in to your vastly inflated salary demands!]

Firstly, an Office Supplies Yurt from Redfox!

At my prompting, Redfox has also provided instructions on how to make your own Office Supplies Yurt, an activity I am planning to adapt to my own Belgian needs imminently.

The walls (wall?) of the yurt is composed of large-size index cards that have been cut in half lengthwise and taped together into a misshapen ring. The misshaping is optional, but I feel it adds a certain charm.

The roof is a very wobbly circle cut out of letterhead, because I had nothing round of a suitable size to trace, and no compass. Wobbly circle a bit bigger than misshapen yurt ring, with a few tabs around the edges to give something to tape to the wall(s). Then I made a single cut from the edge to somewhere near the center, and folded over to make a shallow cone. Much fiddling, untaping, and retaping of both cone and ring ensued before the two would approximate fitting together. More tape. Tape, tape, tape.

Door: Sacrificed a bright red file folder that had obtained a coffee stain at some point in its life. The same file folder provided the pennant for the flag. Yellow and blue panels are made of Post-It, decorated with a combination of roller-ball and felt-tip pen.

Make your own! Yurts go viral!

Predictably, my gay son has been overreaching himself with a magnificent potato based entry. Do take your time and study it. Those potatoes lead rich, interesting lives.

Then, he wrapped his sausage in brown paper and sent it to me! I LOVE MY GAY SON. But don't worry, I won't be judging so let there be no accusations of bias.

Here, not exactly a fête entry, more of a pitiful failure, is my Bonne Maman puppet, observed by dinosaurs.

This is all I have for you. I am experimenting with the correct vegetable medium for the jerboa, but have yet to find the right blend of frisée, cauliflower and something with a long stalk. Hmmm.

Friday, 24 July 2009

In which I have been drunk for two days and suspect foul play

Apologies for any greater than usual levels of incoherence you might encounter here tonight. I appear to STILL be drunk. I have had no alcohol since last night, when I had two small glasses of wine. Something is wrong here.

If my friends weren't a respectable pair of solicitors with three children I would suspect them of spiking my drink last night, because I have been Drunk Drunk Drunk Staggering Incapable Inappropriate for the last 36 hours, which, even being something of an appalling lightweight (for reasons explained here), is a hell of a result for a bit of Shiraz.

Exhibit 1

I arrive home last night (at around 8, this was hardly a wild night of debauchery, even by Brussels standards) and collapse on the front step snickering hopelessly, slapping my cheeks ineffectually to try and restore some feeling to my numb head. Have to make CFO put the children to bed. Fall onto the sofa weeping and eating dry crackers and watched an hour of grave, doom laden, sensational Channel Five programming about HEADSHRINKING which I find endlessly, inexplicably hilarious. I spend the rest of the evening staring into space, eating chocolate buttons and signally failing to go to bed at an appropriate time.

Exhibit 2

I head off, late, panicky, ill-equipped, with a bag full of craft supplies, small stones and dinosaur posters, to Paris to renew Fingers passport and finally meet the other half of my brain, blog regular M. First stop (after walking painfully four times round the Place de la Madeleine looking for the wrong street whilst determined not to make like a tourist and ask): the British Consulate, where, to my horror, I am required to hand over my handbag to the security guard.

"Euh, il y a des sciseaux. Et, euh, désolée pour le reste" (*)

Then I watch in horror as, snapping on his rubber glove (in this case an entirely appropriate precaution) he handles several disintegrating leaves, a bag for picking up dog crap, a box of cheap crayons, several items of Bonne Maman packaging, some pieces of Kinder toy and a child's sock. (M, please confirm I am not exaggerating the contents of my handbag)

Exhibit 3

I go to WHSmiths and spend ten fruitless minutes looking for glue, apparently thinking I have been magically transported via some secret trapdoor to the Liverpool Street Branch (for future reference: they don't have Pritt Stick in Paris WH Smiths).

Then I go and sit on the steps in the Tuileries and fashion a rudimentary puppet out of creme caramel packets, sellotape and googly eyes brought expressly from Brussels for this purpose. My brain twin turns up without her puppet. I look ridiculous but I don't care as FINALLY, I have my hands on small Fimo models of dinosaurs.

Exhibit 4

My brain twin and I follow the ponies in the Tuileries round, sniffing their delicious pony smell, like demented freaks. We photograph a snakeheaded fairground ride and a giant bearded animatronic gorilla and I get in trouble from a vielle dame for having leaf mould on my arse. I get my foot stuck in two grates. Because I apparently believe M actually does share my actual brain I tell her terrible, disgusting things, appalling her into silence as we stomp around Paris acquiring cakes. Expressions used include: 'tumour donkey', 'cock stump', and 'unusually thick, spongy layer of skin'.

Exhibit 5

I read French Elle sex tips in wide eyed fascination on the train home whilst shedding crumbs from a gigantic macaroon all down my front, sharing a table with three Japanese tourists. When I go to the loo and look in the mirror, I realise my nose is powdered and sticky with icing, like in a scandalous paparazzi shot of some coked-up starlet.

Exhibit 6

I CHEER when the right tram turns up on my platform. Metaphorical winds whistle around the Gare du Midi as the commuters stare blankly at me. I pretend it was the teenage boys standing next to me, and turn and stare at them. I fear it is not convincing.

Exhibit 7

I am unable to assemble the cableage, wherewithal, or mental faculties to upload the priceless photography that should accompany this post. Instead it will, I hope, serve to illustrate Dr Capybara's incredibly bad tempered advice column tomorrow.

Note: Although Dr Capybara's casebook is already extremely full for this week, if you have a particular pressing, embarassing, or otherwise entertaining problem for him to deride, do put it in the comments.

(*) Er, I have scissors [Eds note: for puppet making purposes]. Sorry about .. the rest.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Youpi c'est les vacances again

Despite being sick and peevish, and spending yesterday failing to fend off 'karate practice' directed against my head, I still think on balance the holidays are better than term time. I know! I didn't think I would be saying that either. This is WEEK FOUR OF TEN for me, anglo-saxons, you wimps with your six week holidays.

Given I am, as you know, relentlessly negative, let me set out the relative demerits of term and holiday for you.

Holiday Hell

- Packed lunches. Every. Fucking. Day. Handling "saucisson de jambon" a neon pink flabby luncheon meat made from horse penis. It's got to the stage where I get a Pavlovian gag reflex kicking in every time I open the fridge. In any event I might as well pack a whole pig's head in Fingers' lunchbox, it's not as if he even OPENS it. The child lives on air and stolen biscuits.

- Early finishes. All the activities I have signed my children up show a curious reluctance to keep them beyond 4:30. This is unfortunate, since by 4:30 I have usually managed nothing more impressive than desultorily clicking between four or five open windows and a short nap. Much as I try to impose my theory that the children have had sufficient stimulation during the day and can play peacefully for the remainder of the evening, I still find my presence is frequently required to remove fingers from eye sockets, vital Bionicle parts from the weepette's jaws, toothbrushes from the lavatory bowl.

- Driving everywhere. I feel like an extra from 'The Real Housewives of Anderlecht', loading my children up into my wagon of death and vaguely steering in the direction of whatever low rent activity they are signed up for. Even though there is virtually no traffic on the roads now Belgium is shut, I still manage to veer into the face of ongoing trams when fiddling with the GPS, or to park absent-mindedly in front of the police station exit. We are stuck on one CD in the car too, and I am beginning to hate Regina Spektor's new album as a result, which is unfortunate.

- The STUFF. Every week they come back with several cubic metres of carefully crafted, uh, tat - symphonies of pipe cleaners, polystyrene peanuts, loo roll tubes, feathers, clay. Casting a baleful eye around the room from my perch, I can see at least ten bulky creations - I particularly like the large blobs of clay with dried grasses stuck in them. The weepette is doing sterling work chewing up anything left within his reach, but I swear the stuff breeds overnight. I suppose this is my fault for signing them up for creative stuff. If they were just doing football it wouldn't be such a problem, but they have inherited my morbid fear of moving balls.

- The perpetual state of Two Child Stalemate (first identified in Waffle, 2009)

Me: Shall we go and do x (get ice cream, go to the park, go to the bookshop, look for dead things, throw slugs over the fence into Mauricette's garden)?

Fingers: Yes!

Lashes: No.

Me: I hate this. What am I supposed to do now?

They both stare scathingly at me, as if to say 'you are the adult, you work it out'.

Term Torture

- The endless tyranny of homework. Forgotten homework, misunderstood homework, homework covered in grease stains, the 8am search, muttering and fulminating, for rubbers and red crayons and always, ALWAYS pencil sharpeners.

- The ever present danger - nay, inevitability - of lateness.

- The last minute requests for €7,90 (exact money please), two yellow facecloths and a fragment of the true cross.

- The nagging unfocussed guilt at my failure to be a proper hothousing parent. For some reason my psyche takes a break from this in summer, presumably reasoning that the holidays are there precisely for the purposes of understimulating your children until they crack and finally agree to amuse themselves for more than 30 seconds at a time.

But I'll admit it - I rather like the holidays. I like the drifting, getting up late and still having time for a shower, eating pancakes for breakfast in front of the tv, having a half-arsed picnic dinner with the maurauding dog begging for crisps, not having to nag until the sound of my own voice makes me want to vomit.

Clearly, this could be summarised as follows: I am slack, and in the holidays slackness is allowed. I can revel in the rare feeling of social acceptability. Also, I think we all know that I would not be so sanguine if the CFO's parents weren't coming in 2 days to spirit the spawn off in their spanking new caravan (well, new to them. Apparently Fingers will no longer have to sleep on the table!) for a week. Let's see how the benign pro-holiday spirit holds up for two, doubtless rainy weeks in a Normandy village where electricity is viewed with suspicion and computers are witchcraft.

Pro or anti holidays, reader?

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Belgium is off

Today, 21 July, is the Belgian National Holiday.

It commemorates the first royal decree promulgated by Baudoin I in 1439 stipulating that every household must possess an electric waffle iron. Or something. Belgium is a fictional country anyway and noone knows what we are celebrating. The day is marked by King Albert ceremonially switching the country off. It is switched back on again on 1 September, or whenever thereafter someone notices its absence from the international stage. As of today, the country is officially closed for business and for a period of six weeks noone is obliged to be Prime Minister, which comes as a great relief since we have all taken at least two turns since the last National Holiday. Anyone accidentally still resident in Belgium during its 'off' period is deported to Knokke La Zoute and required to become an échangiste or have a facelift. Queen Fabiola dyes her hair red, black and yellow too.

[Editor's Note: Queen Fabiola, due to her gigantic hair and impeccable grooming is an international gay icon. Uh, in Belgium and with my mother's first husband and his partner, who view her with a reverence only otherwise reserved for Princess Margaret ("Margaret Rose" as they call her, very properly). ]

Here in the Waffledome we celebrate the 21st July by eating a Happy Meal on the condom and broken glass strewed verge of our local dual carriageway. The dog vomits, overcome by heat exhaustion. We visit a brocante, a dialect term meaning "heap of broken shit displayed on a blanket by a dissolute bunch of corpulent gentlemen in a string vests sitting on folding chairs cracking open their fifteenth can of Jupiler at 10am". The spawn agonise for hours over which heap of broken plastic to buy at outrageously inflated prices. I sit with the increasingly despairing dog under a tree handing out money with only token protest. Then we go home. I ceremonially park at a forty five degree angle to the pavement, in accordance with national custom and we watch the ceremonial Japanese shitty cartoons.

After a period of fighting between the children that follows a time-honoured ritual observed by generations of Belgians, in my rôle as the most Belgian (also referred to as "only") adult present in the house, I perform the sacred "child bollocking shout up the stairs" , then place both children in bed whilst singing La Brabançonne, replacing every second word with 'fuck'. The evening continues in traditional fashion with Fingers spilling a glass of water all over his bedclothes, commemorating the great Ghent flood of 1687.

Later this evening I look forward to drinking a traditional spirit brewed from the outer leaves of chicory known locally as 'Gordons' whilst watching the heavens piss all over the annual firework display.

Happy Belgian National Day!

Monday, 20 July 2009

In which Oliver James rears his lipless head again

Dear Oliver James,

Ah, Oliver. Oliver, Oliver Oliver. I can call you Oliver, can't I? After all, we have history, you and I.

Oliver, here we are again.

In one way, I should be grateful to you, for you regularly provide me with some of the most entertaining keyword searches to this blog "I hate Oliver James", "Oliver James cunt" "Oliver James wanker" and with each one I send a silent message of affinity to my google searchers. My people! You have found the right blog!

I read your recent piece on maternal stress in the Guardian with interest. By interest, obviously I mean 'rising levels of apoplectic fury'. It is another meisterwork from the NoLips stable. So. Mothers who are stressed in pregnancy have terrible broken children. Cortisol, blah blah blah. You are the Calvin of perinatal cognitive science. Everything is ordained, mainly before birth, we are all damned by our poor lifestyle and childcare choices. I note the reoccurrence of your favourite phrase "cortisol levels are jammed high". Funny, this happens to me whenever I see your byline. I think you and I have been here before, have we not? But if you will insist on repeating yourself, then I must do the same.

Oliver; imagine, if you will, the following hypothetical situation. Imagine that in the sixth month of a second pregnancy, the mother - already parent to an 18 month old - loses her own mother in an accident. Imagine next, that she spends the next four days on the phone to Italy, trying to get her mother's body repatriated. Factor in the grisly and inaccurate press reporting that gives her recurring nightmares. Hypothetically, you might also imagine dealings with the undertakers and coroner, the 18 month old going a bit crazy at the change of routine and environment, the house full of warring relatives, the exponential loss of sanity of one member of the immediate family. The funeral for 600 people - venues! Catering! Tricky coffin choices! All manner of fun. Next we are going to add into our hypothetical example, the sectioning of the aforementioned member of the family under the Mental Health Act in a famous South London institution. The consequent adoption of another family member - a completely devastated family member - into the pregnant mother's household. The torturous bus trips across London to the loony bin. A month after this, we must incorporate in this case study a snap decision required virtually overnight to move to another country. All this between the 6th and 9th month of pregnancy. Let's not even go into the first year of this poor, damned child's life, or his older sibling, exposed to the savage, cortisol flooding effects of childcare - gasp - outside the home.

I am only including the case study as it is one I am glancingly familiar with. But my point is this. Oliver, we cannot all exist in your cosy middle class bubble of smug solipsism. Events get in the way, even for those of us who do normally live in your bubble. And as for those outside of it; what about those for whom "stress" is an inevitable consequence of not enough money, or housing insecurity, or ill health or any number of unavoidable life events that you would appear to believe we can somehow prevent if we are sufficiently, what? Clever? Devoted? Loving? For them, and indeed for all of us, what does your conclusion that maternal stress is not optimal for child wellbeing contribute to the sum of human knowledge? Could you not devote your vast mental faculties to something that would actually NOT make mothers feel like shit about the situations they have been placed in, and the choices they have made?

So. Oliver. What I thought we could do next is this. I will send round my damaged, aggressive, ADHD stressed foetuses, those for whom "the harm is already done" (dickhead, February 2009).

Look, here they are:

So scary! And tragic.

And they could use their untrammelled violence and innate aggression to kick you in the balls. If you have any.



Saturday, 18 July 2009

Fête Roundup - Week One

Week one of the Village Fête and all ready the entries are dribbling in.

From Topo Tales "Scapi, disguised as a French bitch, enjoys a drive in the countryside near Colmar".

Vegetable stuff

A strategic choice from Bevchen, echoing last year's "Special" winner, the grape bee with "Aubergine Bee".

Also in exciting vegetable news EDITH ZIMMERMAN has agreed to judge this category! Poor, poor Edith.


Gina has subcontracted fête entry to her friend Scott's mum, with "Poop cupcake". Gina, come ON. You can do this yourself. Just, you know, pick up a dog, or a few bulldog clips and CREATE. GO GINA.

Administrative shit

Oh! And thank to Sinda we now have a Flickr group for Village Fête photos. It gets stuck in the obscenity filter or something but persist! There is nothing worse than arse biscuits on there. I am a lazy slug so uploading entries is a slow business requiring many breaks for staring into space and small bags of Chocolate Buttons. If you are less of a lazy slug than me, just put your own photos on. Please.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Tired, hungry, mad AND stabby

I am Too Stabby to Blog. This never happens. I blame the hippies. Ok, if I were to use my patented mood explanation system I might come to the conclusion that I am hungry and have not had enough sleep. But I am too grumpy for that right now. And the competing sounds of Frank Zappa and Galactik Football are not helping. It is unfortunate, too, as I have a heap of excellent Fête entries to show you. I will do them tomorrow after an evening spent snarling at anyone who comes near me.

Here. Have a few photos instead. They are from the hippiefest. Whilst we were spared Poi antics, there was an extended sequence of shadow puppetry. Brrr.

On this last picture you can see the slightly disturbing figure of the charismatic bald hippy leader, Fabrice, whose peculiarly feminine bootcut jeans gave me a funny turn, and not in a good way. He looks like a cult leader in training. Oh! And it turns out the boiled felt woman, his partner in aesthetic crime, is called, wait for it, "Emo".

Ok, now the spawn are chasing the weepette around the house with their shadow puppets. The weepette is reacting with craven terror, entirely appropriately, whimpering and hiding under my chair. I am going to save him. At least one person in this household should be safe from the menace of street theatre and related arts.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Slattern hostessery

Prog Rock's sister has a patented system for classifying house guests, and how much effort one must devote to them. I don't know all the details, but I know that the very bottom come 'male relatives' (further subdivided into 'older' and 'younger', the latter being the lowest of the low, obviously). I've been to her house and very strange it is too. I imagine male relatives are left to scrape their dinner from the caked remains in the bread machine and forced to sleep in a pile of her husband's old libretti with a malign tom cat sitting on their head trying to suffocate them.

I can't apply this hierarchy in all circumstances - imagine OCD BiL? Or even the Bearded One who Has Allergies and is used to a very high thread count and a morning wake up call with hot water and lemon and a précis of the morning papers in bullet point form. But poor Prog Rock himself is definitely getting the 'male relative' treatment tonight.

He knows the drill. He is getting the sheets that are already on the spare bed. Casting my mind back, I am fairly sure that only I, or persons higher up the hierarchy, have used them. The house is pretty awful too. There is a dust epidemic, closely related to the cleaner being on holiday. She only comes once a week, but apparently the DUST knows she is away and is taking advantage of her absence to gather in unexpected places and foment dusty rebellion. I think it's planning to climb on the bed and up my gigantic nostrils while I sleep and suffocate me. It's not all catastrophic: I am managing to keep the children more or less clothed and keeping the moth population in the low millions, and most of the actual humans are clean. Lashes even made a particular point of scrubbing my toenails with a large bar of Savon de Marseille and what I later realised was my toothbrush this evening. But the dust is alarming and I fear the hoover. Hoovers can smell fear, you know. Like Linda in The Pursuit of Love, I am sure it will bolt with me if I take it out for a pipe-opener. Could I perhaps tie a feather duster to the weepette and get Fingers to chase him round the house threatening him with the garden hose?

(I would like to say that I am NOT a Roumanov princess and have no problem whatsoever unblocking toilets or cleaning up dogshit or even doing battle with the dreaded moth larvae; beyond those of natural sloth. I just really REALLY hate the hoover. In our old flat we had a Roomba, and would place a handful of jelly babies on its flat top, and spend happy hours watching the spawn - then much slower and wobblier - try and catch it)

Also, I have NO clean underwear left and these age 7-8 pants with dinosaurs on the front are seriously uncomfortable. Not to mention embarassing on a trip to the gynecologist. I mean, how can you convey the breezy message "oh, these? They are ironic STATEMENT PANTS" when she is snapping on her rubber gloves and gathering up her instruments? You can't.

I digress. I meant to say, mainly, poor Prog Rock has arrived, spent half an hour cleaning up the garden, and gone to fetch the takeaway pizzas. The children have looked up from their dog tormenting activities for just long enough to bark, clearly but ungrammatically "where our present is?"

He has of course brought presents:

- Frank Zappa and some hideous jazz CDs for the CFO. I have had a trying day and when he put one of these CDs on, I thought I would break down and cry. Thankfully he spotted my grey green free jazz torture face and turned it off.

- "Science putty" for Fingers, a black pungent substance which appears to be derived from crude oil. He is keeping it under his pillow.

- Some indescribable but apparently highly desirable piece of plastic for Lashes

- Two Bridgewater mugs for me and a ridiculously entertaining piece of Lakeland nonsense - a skewer that turns bright red when your cake is cooked. We were planning to test it on the pizza, but even that proved too much like domestic hard work.

He has promised to update his Library Corner, and is, as I type, sitting outside smoking and chatting to the CFO about a Freudian account of melancholy. The CFO is talking about something completely different, I think, but they appear to be communicating on some essential level. Really, if the way he is welcomed were representative of the pleasure having him here gives me, I should be fêting his arrival with peeled grapes and goose down and chilled Krug. But the fact I don't need to is sort of the point.

Like a female Michael Winner

Lashes cast a distracted eye over the Observer Magazine yesterday morning (probably looking for the Business section for further hints on how to train his crack team of lizard ninjas to find money in the streets - his current career plan) and stopped short at this photo of Anna Wintour:

"Elle te ressemble" (She looks like you)

"Uh. Thanks?"


She is smiling.

And groomed.


Anna Wintour.

Terrifying 80s outfit.

Apparent Adam's apple.

Anna Wintour.

I should probably be grateful. The last celebri-comparison I got was "Meryl Streep but ugly" aged 14 at Quaker school.

Thursday distraction: what's the most unnerving or unflattering comparison you have ever had?

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The Adventures of Derek the Boring Bird, Part I

I have a very special treat for you tonight, courtesy of Katyboo who has compiled this beautiful, wonderful story for the Village Fête (category: miscellaneous) with her VERY OWN HANDS.

I don't need to say anymore, really. Just, read on. The story is in three parts. Just keep scrolling down, and click on the pictures if you want to study this beautifully crafted story in greater detail.

The Adventures of Derek the Boring Bird, Part II

We left our avian hero fastening his cycle clips with his slippers safely boxed. Read on...

The Adventures of Derek the Boring Bird Part III

Previously in the adventures of Derek the Boring Bird, Derek had narrowly averted catastrophe by careful checking of the dimensions of the bath. What next?