Sunday, 30 August 2009

Village fête round up, the edible edition

I hope you're not too hungry because this week's Fête update has an edible theme.

Remember Mr WithaY? He of the fish fetish? Well, we've upset him with our insinuations about the dubious legality of toothpick and marker pen use, and the suggestion he might have a Thing for fish, so he came up with this.

Look! It's entitled "Great big louche green cocktail gorilla".

It has a tongue made from a maraschino cherry. So that's what the nasty little buggers are for.

That gorilla REALLY wants you to have fun. Stop it gorilla, you're trying too hard.

Next! Ok, this one sort of needs context. Someone linked to this site on Twitter a few weeks ago (yes, it's in Japanese, you only need to look at the pictures). Panda bread!

Jojo, being an impressionable soul decided to attempt it. Um, full marks for effort Jojo.

Panda bread:

Jojo's panda bread:

Next, comes Caroline who has submitted this magnificent gingerbread house. The fact that she made it three years ago is neither here nor there. Possibly. We'll let the judges decide.

Finally, Bevchen whose stakhanite fête entry production is verging on alarming has made a lovely housewarming cake.

Far too much actual competence being displayed here. Just wait until I make my Johnny Halliday cake.

Theoretically fête entries close TOMORROW. But because I have been fairly lax about the whole fête thing, I'm going to give you another week. Ginger! Get those salamis coming in! Don't let me down, girl.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Holiday assignment

I have seen better days. The smallest Trefusis, Hunca Munca, finding me curled in a ball on her sofa this morning in my clothes from the night before (these ones, detail lovers. Not ideal nightwear) stared appraisingly at me for a minute, took out her dummy and asked "What ARE you?". It was a fair question. I'm not sure. A mess? A cautionary tale, the moral of which appears to have been mislaid? 79.8% wine and messed up liver enzymes?

Moreover, Confessional is off because our confessor has dug a hole at the bottom of the garden and is refusing to come out. Let's do something different.

Tell me about one book you've read this summer. It can be your summer holiday book report, and as with all holiday assignments, it should be done badly, at the last minute, and in a rush. You may make it up if you can't remember, or spent your holiday doing livelier things.

I am going to tell you about Harry Revised by Mark Sarvas, that I bought on a whim in WHSmiths in Paris on the basis of the synopsis and reviews on the back.

Very briefly, the story is this:

Harry is an aimless, inept Bel Air radiologist whose wife has just died, a fact that leaves him practically unravelling but seemingly emotionally detatched. He falls in love with a waitress, and embarks on a programme of reinventing himself as a masterly, secretive philanthropist, inspired by Alexandre Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo. Disasters heap upon him as he pursues his scheme and the story spools back to explain the web of ineffectual, weak deceits that defined his life with, and indirectly led to the death of Anna, his wife.

From the cover description, I thought it might be a bit blokey. Not blokey in a moronic Tony Parsons way, but more in a young American male novelist way; a bit slick and technical but emotionally empty. My god, but it isn't. It's got wonderful comic timing and plotting, and made me laugh out loud, repeatedly. I don't often laugh out loud at books and I did here, more than once. At the same time, it's a kind, affectionate book, which is odd for something with such a strong farcical element. The characterisation is very humane; Harry himself is hapless but eminently likeable and the relationship with Anna is painfully acutely described. It has a lot to say but with a wonderfully light touch about the bizarre process of grieving and the strange accommodations of marriage. Yet at the same time the plot gallops along in a hugely compelling way and Harry's self-induced catastrophes are hideously funny and relentless.

Hmm. I don't think book reviews are my forte, but fuck it, I have a bizarre tingling in my right hand and all my internal organs are crying like a greek chorus of reproachful viscera. This will have to do. Er, summary time now?

It's great. I recommend. I'll send my copy to whoever gives me the best book report in the comments.

Thursday, 27 August 2009


This is more of a necessity post, to stop the dog shame. I am unusually lacking things to say. Possibly because, being in London, I have spent quite a lot of time with actual, live, English speaking human beings, and thus have gibbered out all the stuff that usually festers in my brain, finding an outlet on these pages.

So, this will just be a brief update on, er, stuff.

1. The Children
Are in Dijon. I spoke to them for the first time for a couple of days a few minutes ago and they sound bizarrely older from this distance. Lashes had caught a very small lizard that escaped into a bench. Fingers had banged his head on the mane of a mechanical horse. I was unable to elicit any further details because they ran away at this point.

2. The Holy Tortoise
Is missing in the garden. We haven't seen him for about 2 months and are starting to get worried. I mean, holy as he is, I am not sure he could take on a highly determined tomcat. Say novenas for him please. He has taken two of his acolytes with him, I fear, as the tortoise count currently stands at 3/6. And no, the weepette has not been using them as chew toys. Even with his industrious little jaw, I very much doubt he could dispose of an entire tortoise without leaving some remains.

3. London
In what I choose to view as progress, I haven't felt compelled to cram the whole of central London in my suitcase to bring home with me. Ok, admittedly I am coming back next week, but still. London is cold and grey and very, very welcoming. I have wandered lonely as a cloud who floats o'er Marylebone High Street and does not even buy a single book from Daunt. Parsimony high five! Ok, I might, conceivably have bought a dress. But not a dear one. Honest, guvnor.

4. Confessional
Is supposed to be tomorrow. Is it worth it? Everyone seems to have been tiresomely good over the holidays. I certainly haven't been up to any noteworthy wickedness. Let me know in the comments whether you feel there is sufficient sin out there to merit Confessional.

5. Belgium
Is still switched off for the summer. But soon, they will start dusting down King Albert and Queen Paola, checking Fabiola's stuffing isn't coming out and she hasn't got motheaten, and taking the high level Eurozombies out of cold storage. Zurich rejuvenation clinics will empty as the undead regroup for another year of passionate regulation of tax incentives for regional bus companies and the like. I can hardly wait.

6. Friends off the internet
Have been extraordinarily wonderful to me in recent weeks. The CFO asked, not long ago, who I think will look after me, who will I have to hug, when Things take their course. This is, of course, a bit of an imponderable. The children, the weepette, family; we'll all hold on to each other as much, and as best we can. But I have the amazing privilege to also have people looking out for me on line. People who make me laugh and laugh and tell me their stories and share their wisdom, which is infinitely greater than mine. I am a bit pathetic at asking for help in real life, so the people who have heard my muted, pathetic, virtual cris de coeur recently have been utter life savers. I sound really sappy, don't I? But it's so much appreciated. Ugh. I should perhaps have said, I'm hungover. I might cry at any minute. If a pigeon looked at me funny today I burst into inconsolable tears. It's tragic.

7. Gin
Is a poison. A slow acting, long lasting poison. There's a reason they call it Mothers' Ruin. And why it led eighteenth century addicts to blithely throw their children onto the fire, mistaking them for logs (I learnt about this in my totally reputable history degree so it MUST be true). Just say no, kids.

I do hope slightly enhanced service will resume tomorrow when my brain should be marginally less spongiform.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

Weepette/Human: Mode d'Emploi

I'm spending this evening alone with the weepette.

I have misgivings about our relationship, Oscar and I. I mean, the honeymoon is well and truly over on both sides. We are like a couple, a year or two into married life as, almost imperceptibly slowly, disillusionment sets in. We are wondering what, exactly, we have got ourselves into.

Oscar, for his part, has made it clear that I am very low in his hierarchy of preferred humans. I throw, not merely like a girl, but like a spaghetti armed retard whose few forays into throwing/catching/coordination sports ended invariably in disaster and humiliation. Often when I throw a stick for him he just looks at it in disbelief and scorn and refuses to chase it. This does not happen when the CFO throws sticks, nor when any random male under 55 who Oscar entraps in the park (one of his favourite activities) throws a stick for him. Moreover, I am not good at 'playing' (my children would agree with this). All I want to do is cuddle and parade him round on a lead looking pretty; I have no interest in playing ridiculous tug of war games with a length of saliva coated rope, thank you. As a result, he rejects all my advances with cat-like disdain and will only stay on the same chair as me for about a minute before he pushes me off with all four paws simultaneously.

For my part, I have a dark suspicion that Oscar is not, in fact a weepette. He is still peculiarly small and squat for a weepette - a good 4 inches short of what I would call a 'proper' size.

Look; here he is with a ketchup bottle for comparison. No, don't knock it over Oscar.

(Why yes, the kitchen IS looking exceptionally sordid at the moment! So clever of you to notice)

Some might say that he is a bit like me in this respect - a little short and square. Thank goodness he still has his lovely Amy Winehouse eye markings and his coat has settled to an elegant sort of Armani greige or I would find him very aesthetically challenging. I still find myself staring at him accusingly as he begs for food and saying:

"You are very small Oscar. Why are you so small?".

Like a subtly abusive husband making jibes about his wife's figure.

He is not good at dressing up either. I have been trying for weeks to find a way to dress him up as a mussel for the Village Fête but it has proved impossible.

On top of this, I chose a weepette on the understanding that they were indolent to the point of catatonia once they had had their daily half hour of running fast in a circle. Thus far, I have been disappointed. I have just come back from a long walk with Oscar (long for me, at least), but that has not prevented him spending the last half hour pathetically bringing me stuffed animals to throw, and pulling my handwashing off the radiator to parade it round the garden. Yes, here he is again, this time with a plush chameleon. Oh, and now a punctured basketball. And a turtle in a sock (not a real one, have no fear). Jesus. Is there no end to it?

Oh, go on then.

What, again?

Oscar, I'm BORED NOW.

God. Last time then.

Then if I stop, he sits and looks like this.

And whimpers.

It's emotionally exhausting, I tell you.

The likelihood is, with Things being as they are, that the weepette and I will be spending more time tête a tête in the future. We really have to sort it out. Maybe I will need to explain to him that when I look at Scottish terriers in the street, it's not because I don't love him, I'm just admiring them. Purely aesthetically, you understand. And maybe I will have to learn to be more receptive to his Needs and resign myself to more evenings with the spit coated rope. Perhaps for the sake of our relationship I should invest in one of those giant spoons for throwing tennis balls? I certainly need to explain to him that when he gives me the full four paws chair ejection when I try to stroke his silky ears that I feel rejected. I need more affection! I have Needs too!

For the moment though, I think really he needs a night out with that nice cocker spaniel from up the road, and I need something to stroke, dammit. Where did that chewed up cuddly cameleon go?

Monday, 24 August 2009

Parenthesis (with platypus)

After another tricky morning today, full of anxiety and foreboding and berating myself, I looked at the clock and realised it was half past two and I hadn't eaten. I could have done my usual, and eaten whatever lint coated rubbish was hidden at the bottom of my handbag and slipped into a decline, but for once I didn't. I headed out into the brilliant sunshine, stopped at the Neuhaus on the corner near the office and bought one of their small, but extremely delicious ice creams. Then I walked over to the nearest patch of grass, and sat in the shade of a statue of Leopold III's horse and very slowly and deliberately ate my ice cream (coffee and vanilla, with a very thin seam of chocolate sauce, wonderful)*.

And as I sat and ate, I thought this.

'Ten years ago you couldn't eat ice cream. You couldn't eat it because it was so easy to throw up, that you could never resist the temptation, so you didn't let yourself eat it'**.

And I allowed myself a moment's satisfaction. And the dead weight on my chest lifted, just fractionally.

And then I thought about all that had happened in the intervening ten years. Things that the 24 year old me would never have believed she could get through. All the stuff you already know about. And in particular, I thought about a handful of days that were so much worse than this one and how it was days like those that had given me the resources I needed to get through days like today. I thought of staring at the ceiling in a Paris clinic at 6am and counting the tiles, willing myself not to think, just to keep studying that ceiling. I thought about sitting frozen at my desk in London consumed by dread and unable to move, wondering how I would ever move again. I thought going to the undertakers the morning before mum's funeral with my sister. I thought about standing on a traffic island on Wigmore Street with tears pouring down my face and a screaming, boiling hot infant strapped to my front, or trembling, in a basement in Lissom Grove, before going into group therapy. All the crazy, sick, sad, days.

And I thought that there would doubtless be more crazy sick sad days, but somehow it would be ok. And I remembered that getting through this stuff has made me a stronger, and more importantly, kinder person than that brittle, unforgiving 24 year old who wrote down her 10 portions of fruit and vegetables a day every single day and wondered, secretly, whether she just didn't want to be happy. And who could never confide anything because it would be like admitting weakness.

And I finished my ice cream, stood up and straightened my shoulders, raising my chin slightly in defiance. And then I went back to the Corridor of Ennui and finished my office supplies platypus***.

I think we should imagine this scene set to a medley of Gloria Gaynor and Destiny's Child. Me, ice cream, horse statue, empowerment, inept craft. Waffle power!

* Belgian Government Health Warning 1: Ice cream does not contain fibre and is not one of your five a day. It should only be eaten in moderation as part of a balanced, boring diet. However it is really fucking delicious. Go on! Have some.

** Belgian Government Health Warning 2: Do not throw up your ice cream. It is wasteful and stupid and we will send Jean Luc Dehaene round to sit on you.

*** Ok, the platypus is really shit, but that is Not The Point.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Belgian Holiday

The spawn are off visiting OCD Brother in Law, so it's a weekend of pretending to be Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, zooming around on the motorbike inappropriately dressed in the sunshine. If Audrey Hepburn had soup stains on her skirt and looked like a naked mole rat, that is. Yeah, ok, I wouldn't be the obvious first choice for Audrey. The wig reacts badly to the helmet, and my legs are far too short for capris. ANYWAY.

We're discussing first boyfriends and girlfriends, over pizza.

"Ah, Chris, the trainee teacher with the huge chin. I was sixteen. We used to do photography together, so we'd often be in the darkroom at the same time. Small room, dark, very close proximity. It was inevitable. He used to leave tiny slips of paper with typewritten poetry on them in my study overnight and I would come in and find them in the morning. It was SO romantic. I was totally obsessed. And of course, because he was a student teacher and I was a pupil, it had this added frisson of transgression that just made it even more exciting. Even though all we did was go and drink beer in the depressing old man pubs of North Yorkshire.
"He lived in Doncaster and when my mum finally agreed to let me go over and stay with him, HE told me that she had called him up and insisted on separate bedrooms and I resented her for YEARS for that and blamed her when we split up. When he dumped me I stalked him round all the pubs of York for months. I was sooooo miserable. Also, he never quite finished it properly so I was mooning about thinking that maybe he would get back in touch for ages. It was torture. Anyway, years later I mentioned it to her and she said she had never phoned him at ALL and he had completely made it up".

The CFO is frowning. "Doesn't it seem like ASKING for trouble to put a trainee teacher and some seventeen year old girls IN A DARKROOM together?

"I suppose so. Quaker school was a bit like that. The German teacher gave the A Level exam answers to the pretty girls with long legs and noone did anything about it. How about you, anyway?"

"Hmm. I can't remember her name but I do remember she was 16 and I was 14 which was a big coup for me. I used to have to cycle over and see her on Wednesdays because she went to a different school, and we had NOTHING to talk about so we would sit on a bench and just kiss. It was a real drag having to go and see her".

"Did she dump you?"

He tries to remember.

"Er.. I think I just stopped going. She wasn't that bothered. She was my first though".

"WHAT? You slept with her? She was your first and you can't remember her NAME? Jesus! I didn't even sleep with Chris and it took me, like, two years to get over him".

[Chris! I still haven't got over you! Call me! I know I vomited when I saw your penis, but it was only because I was really hypoglycaemic! Nothing to do with the actual organ!]

There is a point to this. Well, there isn't but now I've decided to make one. And given that times are really hard and I made you a pygmy jerboa out of crap from my dad's garden, I think you ought to play.
So. Please tell me about your first serious boy/girlfriend in the comments with the most dismal details possible. Best story wins a crap Belgian prize. Say, a Manneken Pis corkscrew, perhaps?

Go on. Please?

Fête update, week [I forget]

Time for some fête updates. I have a vague plan to make a fête cake today. But I have a vague plan to write 3000 words and deal with several months of post too, and there's no way that's going to happen, so please don't hold your breath.

Thankfully, others have been more active than me.

Firstly, Gina has submitted several marvellous finger puppet tableaux on behalf of her friend Scott, whose existence I am beginning to doubt. Your 'friend' eh, Gina?

Here we have "Caveman Clubs Cows to Death Whilst Frida Looks On.”and here "Siamese Virgina Woolf Twins Visit the Wizard Who Summons a Knight to Separate Them With His Mighty Sword Whilst an Austrian Climbs the Theater".

Next, the mighty Cakeface has produced this wonder, entitled "Evil Hedgehog". Cakeface would like to particularly draw your attention to the evil hedgehog's yellowing pine nut teeth.

Bevchen has been busy with office supplies and has come up with this, entitled "Country Road".

One homegrown effort, courtesy of Fingers. Well, he actually subcontracted the actual work to me, but I think of myself as the studio assistant to his Anish Kapoor. It's called, not altogether surprisingly, "Parrot".

And finally for the moment, my adoptive son has been fashioning office supply capybaras. Lovely boy. See capybara and capybarbara.

I do hope to be back later. I mean, it's not like I have anything better to do.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Pukkelpop 2009, Waffle version


First the CFO picks me up at the office. I walk down to the corner where we have arranged to meet so he can give me my motorbike gear. After much agonising about festival appropriate outfits, I'm wearing Paul & Joe dark indigo jeans and a sort of floaty cotton kaftan top with giant Japanese fish on it (Gharani Strok). Checking my look in the ladies loos, I am moderately pleased with myself. This is never a good sign.

"I have some bad news" he says.


"First, the hotel is in a industrial estate. Second -brace yourself - they only serve beer at this festival"


Neither of us likes beer. We are really, really bad Belgians. Beer for me means my evil first boyfriend who used to make me hold pint glasses in my teeny tiny seventeen year old hands and get me drunk on horrible old man's bitter.

"I'll never get through the night sober! What will we do?"

"Don't worry, I've made contingency plans. Oh, and I've forgotten your flat shoes".

"NOOOOO!" I send a silent apology to Rupert Sanderson for what is about to befall his lovely red patent cut out side heels.

"You need to wear this" He hands me a blue nylon windcheater, much like the kind of garment lower division football club managers favour when gesticulating from the touchline.

I put it on and get on the motorbike. I look like Brian Clough. We zoom off. I am not very good at the motorbike because I treat it like a horse - heels down, grip with calves, sit up nice and straight. After five minutes I am usually whimpering and today is no exception. My head can't find a good place to go and small stones keep whipping up from the road and hitting me on the feet. Sorry Rupert.

After about an hour when I am fantasising about just letting go, the CFO gesticulates in the direction of an collection of factories. I assume he is trying to communicate with some other road user and ignore it, but he turns off at the next exit and we drive into the industrial estate. This is indeed where our hotel is; in a wasteland full of light industrial units. Ah well.

The hotel reception is full of conference delegates from the nearest factory discussing injection moulded plastic in Flemish. They stare at us like something in a scene from Straw Dogs. We scuffle quickly to our room, my face completely numb from the too-tight helmet chin strap and the CFO, like a conjuror producing a rabbit pulls out a pouch of Dove shower gel from his pocket.

"Why on earth are you showing me that? Do I smell?"

"No! This contains our SECRET DRINK RESERVE. I thought, if they ask us why we've brought it, we could say 'swine flu'. Try it!"

"No. You try it. Doesn't it taste of soap?"

He tries it and frowns in concentration.

"Nooooo... I don't think so.. Not much. There's just the slightest aftertaste. Maybe".

He pours me a glass. It looks like urine.

"What on earth is IN there?"

"Gin. And Red Bull".

I take a small sip and spit it out.

"BLEUUURGH! It tastes like my granny's Palmolive soap!"

"No, that's the taste of Red Bull! It tastes like that - like cherries. Honestly" .

"I didn't say it tasted of cherries! It tastes. Of. Soap".

"You are so demanding. Alright, I'LL drink it. You can have the hip flask"

"And how do you propose getting the hipflask on site?"

"In my slip. They won't feel my balls, will they?"

"I have no idea. I suppose we will just have to wait and see. We ought to drink now while we still can though".

We have two restorative gins at the hotel bar [ndlr: it's about four in the afternoon. Noone turns a hair] and head off again, me in my Brian Clough jacket and Rupert Sandersons, the CFO in an all-in-one motorcycle suit. Following the trail of fourteen year olds in shorts and Birkenstocks (for this is a sensible, Flemish festival), we eventually find the entrance. Noone tries to feel the CFO's balls.

We can count people older than us on the fingers of one hand and after a full survey, I conclude I am the only person wearing heels. Everyone is tanned and blonde and amazonian and approximately fourteen years old. They are all Dutch and thus at a major genetic advantage compared with the pair of us swarthy goblins. It is quite depressing without alcohol. The hipflask is soon out of its hiding place and empty. Gin and Fanta, the only soft drink apparently available on site, is an acquired taste.

We see Glasvegas (mouais, bof, French for "alright, I suppose"), The Ting Tings (disappointing - I expected great things and they were very functionally competent but nothing more. "We love you Belgium" Katie White tries to shout, unconvincingly, but her voice sags with festival fatigue, and it sounds more like she's saying "I would like a nice cup of tea and a lie down now". I have some sympathy), and Vampire Weekend (great. the new album tracks sound very very good and they were far better live than I'd been led to believe) but then it all goes a bit aimless. The tweenagers are just getting into their stride with jolly Flemish drinking songs, but I'm flagging and when the CFO accidentally pours a whole bottle of Fanta directly into my crotch, I am seriously wondering what on earth possessed us.

After a couple of hours wandering around the techno field sobering up and listening to repetitive clanking noises that sound like they could have come from the buildings near our hotel, I am wearing my best cat's arse face. In addition, damp denim plus Fanta friction is causing me some painful thigh chafing. A youth with white dreads (of COURSE) nearly pees on me and I am collecting beer spillages more or less everywhere. We catch each other's eye and start laughing hysterically.

"Ok, come on" says the CFO "I'm more or less fit to drive the bike".

"Thank fuck for that, I was beginning to think we would be stuck here for ever".

He even lets me wear the full waterproof suit on the long, slow journey back. It's so long in the leg that it trails down on the road right over my dusty, scuffed spike heels. On arrival I collapse on the bed like a capsized beetle still wearing the suit and can't right myself. The CFO has to pull it off for me as my gin sodden, motorbike wobbled limbs are leaden. Before he does, he takes a picture on his phone.

"I had fun tonight" he says.


Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Country pursuits

I have just trodden on something. With bare feet. I couldn't exactly tell you what it was but I know it must be something that has internal organs because now they are all over my toes. And I can also tell you it was not furry but more smooth, going on slimy. Yes, the countryside continues to be all manner of fun. This morning my nephew told me that cows lay eggs. How I love that boy.

"Later I can take the children to watch the farmer cut barley!" says the Bearded One, with all the pride of one who has just discovered the secret of cold fusion.

"Oh, can they go in the combine harvester?" says the CFO politely, trying to generate a particle of enthusiasm.

"No" says my father. They can stand at the side of the field and watch".


In any event he sloped off, shifty eyed, mid morning and has not been seen since. I imagine he is sitting in some sepulchrally dark, silent pub with a pint and the paper. Presumably the great barley extravaganza is off.

With such a dazzling programme of entertainment laid out for us, we have made a pygmy jerboa for the fete instead. The CFO insisted on calling it Djerba, or Jerboam, or Gerbera or even, memorably, Jellaba, but had some excellent ideas for construction. The body is clematis blossom. Yeah, it's probably not edible but it's ALL JERBOA ALL THE TIME. Look:

Its feet are yellow courgette, its beak lemon peel (does it have a beak? I can't even access sodding You Tube to check. Bloody country) and its legs, uh, twigs. Its eyes are not currants but I could totally have lied to you and pretended they were and you would never have been any the wiser. What? It's a good jerboa, OKAY?

Flushed with the success of the Jerboa I mistakenly attempted Helena's' challenge of making a dung beetle. It is atrocious, but I include it anyway.

Actually, the first one was so awful, I made another, this time from plums. Sadly it was even worse.

There is something about the way it is sort of splayed, belly flopping over its dung ball that is frankly unseemly, isn't there? Moreover, having finally looked at a picture of a dung beetle I realise it is pushing its ball of poo the wrong way round, I am a total vegetable beetle loser. Sorry, Helena.

In both the vital role of the ball of dung is played by a wormy potato. There are a lot of those around and I had to put my hand into a stinking sack of them to select dung balls. Never let it be said I do not make sacrifices for you and for my art.

I have to go now before someone falls into a slurry pit or something. Tomorrow, Nathan willing, I will be returning to sweet, sweet Belgium.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Dead in tooth and claw

Mortality is everywhere in the countryside. No wonder I find the whole business so fucking depressing.


"Look at my feather, Auntie Emma!" says my niece, waving it under my nose. "It's from a dead wood pigeon! We took it straight out of the FLESH".

"Oh? Is that the dead bird out in the barn of doom?" As ever, the barn of doom is staffed with a full compliment of dead creatures and rusting agricultural machinery.

"No! This one is all rotten and its head had come off!"

"Ah. Right".


Not to be outdone, eldest son starts fishing around in the drains for toads with a slotted spoon he has taken from the kitchen. He shouts excitedly for me to come and see what he has found. What he has found is a tiny pink and white bloated mouse corpse. Far too exciting for the mere slotted spoon, he is holding it by one pathetically tiny white paw in his hand. Smiling fixedly, I escort him into the house for decontamination.

"Grandad! We found a baby mouse dead!" he says, enunciating carefully in English but with his own brand of Belgo-syntax.

My father rouses himself briefly from sour contemplation of a tiny newt, also discovered swimming in a fetid dead mouse soup in the drain. He is very much hoping will not turn out to be the hideously rare and protected Great Crested variety, which will put paid to any home improvement plans he may have envisaged.

"Oh? What kind of mouse do you think it is?" He reaches for the large guide to native British flora and fauna.

"Hard to say" I tell him bleakly "One at an advanced stage of decomposition".

Revived by dead fauna - we soon establish after close examination of its tiny, pathetic tail that it is probably a field vole, since the parent and its droppings have been sighted in the utility room - the Bearded One takes me aside and whispers gleefully to me the treat he has kept in store for the children when they get bored with poking wasps and contracting tetanus.

"We found a baby dead fox on the lawn a few weeks ago and I dumped it in the forest. I thought maybe I could lead an expedition to examine its corpse!"

"Sounds marvellous" I say and go and lie on the bathroom floor until a large earwig crawls over my face.


Desperate for light relief after this catalogue of decay and destruction we place all the children in front of an edifying natural history DVD about amphibians. With hindsight, cartoons would have been wiser.

"What is sperm?" asks my nephew.

"It's complicated" says my brother after the briefest of pauses, with the heavy finality of one who has no desire to talk four under 8s through the facts of life today. In the background David Attenborough continues to burble excitedly about the female tree frog's "genital holes". The adults try to avoid each other's eyes.


Finally we concede defeat at the hands of nature and head for the Cotswold Farm Park where everything that would be discovered here dead can be seen live and relatively salubrious, petted and fed. It's country lite and it comes with added cake. I am in favour. Of course, we cannot tell my nephew where we are going due to his great distaste for everything farm related so must maintain the fiction that we are going to "a playground". He bravely tolerates the presence of various horrors - small, pungent slotty eyed Soay sheep, tiny chicks and piles of sleepy, warm kune kune piglets, and my new lust object (entirey superceding Number 18, the beach pony from Trouville), a two day old spotty baby donkey called Florence - before collapsing in horror and rage and having to be removed from the premises and bought a giant gleaming black rocket launcher. Thus mollified he stomps around the car park, muttering at the various outrages of the natural world.

On the way home, lightheaded with buttercream poisoning and goat sniffing, I insist we stop off in Tescos for Grazia and a bottle of Tesco's Value gin. Giddy with the possibilities of an actual British supermarket, I spin round the aisles accumulating shitty foodstuffs.

"Auntie Emma?" says my niece piteously "This is all JUNK FOOD".

"Yes, but" I lie "You can't get junk food in Belgium. Your cousins are going to take it back and show it at school". I inhale a KitKat Chunky Caramel while her back is turned and hide the wrapper in my pocket.

On our return as the body snatchers set off for more corpse watching, I sneak away to try, with little hope, to check my email. The internet miraculously, momentarily, sparks into life. It's like a tiny miracle of life, at last.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Fin de vacances

So. The CFO is folding kites while I try and scrape chocolate off the white sofas and turn all the cushions over to hide the Nutella stains. The second wave feminist caucus are back on the shelves without their jaunty hats. Fearful rabbit, giant heron and decorated egg can finally breathe again. Soon the lady from the agency will come round and count teaspoons under our apprehensive gaze. The Control Lemon has been cut in half and used for scrambled eggs.

It's the end of the holiday.

Impressively we have not eaten each other's brains or feasted on spinal fluid (thanks, M). We are SO grown up. Holiday high five!
I will leave you with this image of the neighbours' sandcastle. It features Stonehenge, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sphinx, the Great Wall of China, l'Arc de Triomphe and uh, some other stuff. As you will readily imagine, no child had a hand in the making of it, even though there are at least six to choose from in their house. It was the work of a single, obsessive father.

I have no idea whether I will be able to post again before Wednesday. Think of me, grinding my teeth miserably whilst fending off spiders the size of ponies and failing to admire vegetables with sufficient enthusiasm.

Friday, 14 August 2009


The holidays are nearly over. The children are the colour of delicious, buttery Normandy croissants and the fine hair on the backs of their necks and round their ears is white blond. The CFO is mahogany. I have a slightly pink mark across my thighs where the laptop has overheated, a giant green bruise from falling upstairs and a deep purple lovebite that looks oddly like a cigarette burn courtesy of Lashes, but have otherwise maintained my deathly pallor. All is as it should be.

With my propensity for fretting pre-emptively, I am already worrying about:

1. The next 4 (FOUR - count them) days in the Cotswolds. Not only do I hate the countryside, as amply documented on these pages, but the Bearded One regards information technology as the devil's work and is about as likely to have a functioning broadband connection as he is to sprout wings and fly. My niece and nephew will also be there. The last time we were all united in these circumstances (exactly a year ago I note, archives are a wonderful thing), it inspired me to poetry. My nephew, who I respect enormously, is my ally in this nest of rural doom. He declared his hatred of all things farm and animal related last year and I can't imagine anything in the interim will have changed his mind. He does make me laugh, especially when he gets enraged at the mere thought of farmers, or pigs, or similar. Shame he is only 4, because otherwise I might have an accomplice to lead a breakout. We could hitchhike to Oxford and then get the bus or something. At the very least maybe he could come on day release with me to Daylesford and spend £18.75 on a cappucino and a scone. Maybe he will if I bribe him with a Power Ranger?

On top of that, an inventory of my packing reveals that I only have two pairs of shoes. First, Fitflops, and second, Lanvin suede ballet flats with a giant satin bow on the front. Lord. The thought of putting my feet into the mildewed spiders' nests that are the spare wellies at the Bearded One's house is almost as bad as the thought of sleeping in all that dark, cold rural silence. Bleugh.

2. On our return to Belgium, some kind of dangerous brain fever has caused me to buy tickets for a proper young person's music festival in a field in Flanders. Approaching middle age and distinctly middle of the road, I am going for Vampire Weekend and the Ting Tings and to pretend I am down with the kidz. The CFO, profoundly in the throes of mid-life crisis even before I propelled him into apocalypse, is up for anything and particularly wants to see Squarepusher, a disturbing bearded introvert who makes a noise like a time and motion study in a turkey processing plant. This alone would cause me misgivings, but now I have seen the rest of the programme I am REALLY worried. I can't decide which act causes me the greatest anxiety. Crystal Antlers? A Place to Bury Strangers? Fake Blood? Actually, I think "Das Pop", because any suggestion of German is not a good thing where music is concerned (yes, Red Shoes, now you may kick my head in). It doesn't bode well, does it? If any of you have actually heard of these people and have recommendations, or particular things to avoid, do let me know. The less time I can spend curled in a foetal ball rocking backwards and forwards to the strains of Flemish death metal, the better. Mrs Trefusis compounded my worries by wondering aloud what I was going to wear. I don't know because I HADN'T EVEN THOUGHT ABOUT THAT SOURCE OF ANXIETY YET, oh god, and now I have something else to worry about. Jesuzemann.

3. It is the CFO's 40th birthday soon. Given recent, uh, Things semi-documented here, you can imagine that neither of us are viewing this happy event with quite the innocent joy we might be. What can possibly be an appropriate present? How does one celebrate given the circumstances? I DO NOT KNOW, internet, and neither does he. The children will not let us cancel it entirely, of course but the CFO would rather gnaw his own leg off that have a party right now. Ideas?

That is all, worry wise. Well, that is plenty, anyway. I'll keep the rest to myself for the moment. These teeth aren't going to grind themselves, you know.

Thursday, 13 August 2009

A poor excuse for a load of photos

Such a strange holiday. The spawn are enjoying it.

I think.


Each in their own way.

Techtonik on the beach, perhaps? Or would you like to clean and classify your cuttlefish by size?

And breakages have been surprisingly limited. Lashes melted a Bulbasaur on a bedside lamp but that's about it. There's still time though.

The Trouville aquarium was a high point. I went ahead with the spawn while the CFO parked the car. The entrance appeared to be through the municipal mortuary. At the end of a dark, damp corridor lurked a unsmiling harridan in a sweatshirt guarding a selection of plastic keyrings. Whoever decided on the sweatshirt as the default uniform of choice in this type of attraction had decidedly not been watching French How to Look Good Naked. With an increasing sense of foreboding we paid €18,50 and entered the darkness.

Two minutes, four goldfish and a very bad tempered dwarf shark later, we appeared to have completed our circuit. It was like a marine version of the model railway museum at York Station, a single room with four buckets for children to stand on and a single lonely train going around in a figure of eight watched by a handful of tiny plastic figurines. I was particularly mystified by the profusion of cages of small rodents.

"Hamsters aren't very, uh, aquatic, are they?" I whispered to Lashes.

The harridan overheard me.

"It's to demonstrate what the SNAKES eat".

The snakes added a further minute to our trip.

"Bébé?" the CFO had just arrived and was just about to enter the grotto of doom.

"Noooon! Don't come in. Whatever you do STAY BACK"

Afterwards, the CFO said the note of panic in my voice was striking, reminiscent of a chivalrous farmhand who finds the badly beaten corpse of the tweed clad landlord in the stable block whilst accompanying a lady visitor and is keen to protect her from trauma in an episode of Midsomer Murders or similar. He also said his credit card was already in the machine and he had to snatch it out right beneath the nose of the thwarted harridan. I was very concerned that paying €7,50 to see two guppies and a cage full of guinea pigs would push him over the edge.

Instead he stayed outside and found blog material for me. When we emerged, two minutes later, he took my elbow and steered me over here:

"Mmm, andouillettes and tripe postcards!"

"Look closer. Make sure you get a good shot of the COBWEBS"

But what of the adults?

With the notable exception of the aquarium it has been peaceful and beautiful, but oh, so sad and strange in parts. I'm not going to say too much about the sadness, because it's all a bit raw and it's not all mine to talk about, but if the funny sags a bit from time to time, at least you know why.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

How to Look French Naked.

Evening in Normandy. Sick of staring at the beach in a melancholy fashion, and sighing occasionally, the CFO and I are watching cheap, derivative French television programmes.

First, "L'amour est dans le pré" where a variety of farmers with the social skills of mountain goats enlist a production company to try and find them spouses. There is some extremely ill-advised knitwear on show and a number of skull deformities reminiscent of a Flaubert short story. Predictably the success rate is approximately zero, and I learn that French agricultural types are surprisingly fussy. Possession of the requisite number of limbs and sufficient upper body strength to assist in inseminating sows is not enough for them, oh no. The successful candidate must also have a working knowledge of three European languages and tantric sex and enjoy reading aloud from Goethe on the long winter evenings. The unedifying scene at the end of the programme where all the inexplicably still single agriculteurs gather to get drunk and generate sparks with their acrylic jumpers is particularly poignant.

Next, to my delight, we move on to the French version of How to Look Good Naked. It is like a gift wrapped present to delight me on a Monday night. From the very first minutes, the differences with the UK version are apparent. The UK candidates are usually properly ordinary looking and the programme is based on Gok Wan jollying them along like a demented self-esteem cheerleader and making them wear a reasonably fitting bra. After that, they cover them in fake tan and make them pose with a sheet draped around them. It's an all girls together, self-acceptance feel good type of programme. In the first French episode I watch, the sad, body dysmorphic subject looks rather like a slightly rounder, very large breasted Naomi Campbell. She is absolutely gorgeous, with those turny uppy corner feline eyes and an amazing, angular face. She does not like her breasts. They turn too many heads. The French Gok sweeps in, narrows his eyes and purses his lips, and appraises her.

"Ah, yes. I see. You do have quelques défauts [a few flaws]. You have a belly, and large hips. And these breasts, though they are very desirable, are very very large. However, with my help I will teach you to cover up your défauts".

The next half hour is a catalogue of how to walk with a sultry swing so your unacceptably large arse is not visible and a paen to the power of very shiny accessories to redirect attention. However the real star of the show, and the two that follow is the "Gaine". The Gaine is like magic pants, but far, far more terrifying. Indeed at one point in some attempt at clarification the screen carries small print stating "culotte magique = gaine", presumably indicating that the Académie Française has not accepted culotte magique as correct French usage. The French Gok holds up a Gaine like it is the Holy Grail and waves it in the poor woman's face. The gaine is a vast expanse of slightly shiny beige elastic. It shimmers menacingly at the camera.

"This is what you need! With a gaine you will lose, ooh, at least two dress sizes around your very large hips!"

The lingerie shop woman, in severe glasses and a tailored black suit nods her agreement, and marches the poor Naomi Campbell lady into a changing room. We see a titantic struggle ensuing behind the gauzy curtain as the French Gok stalks around playing with various undergarments. The curtain is drawn back and Naomi hobbles out, barely able to move due to the constricting magic of spandex.

There is much oohing and aahing at her terrifyingly firm midsection. Gok pulls up her top to admire the miracle of engineering at work. An involuntary gasp escapes me - the woman is entirely covered in beige spandex. There is no skin visible between shoulder and mid thigh. Gok and the lingerie dominatrix admire their handiwork. They make her go back and put a negligée on top of the gaine to admire her new line.

"But, but.. Surely she wouldn't actually wear that IN BED???" the CFO says in horror.

"Quite possibly" I say, seduced by the magic of the gaine. "It might cure CANCER, or even better, CELLULITE".

In the next episode, this time with a beautifully blonde, probably UK size 12 at the absolute outside, who is bemoaning her over rounded buttocks, the Gaine once more demonstrates its redemptive magic.

I turn, with slightly appalled delight to the CFO.

"Does this not all seem slightly, um, un PC? All this talk of défauts? Aren't they supposed to be learning to love their bodies?"

"This is France" says the CFO complacently "Here we teach them to hide their unacceptable flaws in a gaine. Or conceal them behind a sparkly handbag. I'm surprised they don't give out gaines at the border".

Fresh from this revelation, I looked at my underwear drawer with a slightly jaundiced eye this morning. Where is the voluminous shiny beige corsetry? How long before I give in to the siren song of the gaine? Thankfully, there are only two days left of our holiday.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Free, free, free

Do you know what I love? Free samples. I love free samples more than almost anything. It's pathological. That was how I ended up in Céline's tentacles yesterday, the lure of the free sample. She wasn't even that generous, presumably reasoning that I was wearing several kilos of free make up by the time she finished with me.

I love anything free, actually, and would argue that this is a basic human instinct with some important evolutionary basis that I have not entirely thought through. Give me time though. Have you ever been at a mainline station when they are giving out unspeakable flavoured new crisps or banana and tofu cereal bars, or tiny samples of men's deodorant? And there are inexplicable hordes of people queueing up for fizzy strawberry yoghurt drinks? Well there I am, right at the front of the queue, ideally angling for two or three, and coming back a few minutes later from another angle to try and inveigle them into giving me even more. That's more: STUFF I DO NOT LIKE. But like I say, it's pathological. A typical Wednesday (my day off) when we lived in Spitalfields would involve me taking both boys on a lengthy tour of Liverpool Street station and its environs to see how much free crap we could accumulate. I even once signed up for a gym induction (I KNOW) so that Lashes could get a free frisbee. I love free.

There is a hierarchy of free, though, and my favourite kind of free is free cosmetic samples. This is an area where France effortlessly outclasses England. In England, obtaining the smallest pathetic vial of carpet cleaner scented perfume requires a rigorous vetting process akin to a job interview. Do you LIKE the brand? Are you committed? What are you buying today to merit our mililitre of synthetic bird sick? Or course, this also plays on our natural British reticence. We would not dream of actually ASKING for free samples, so the sadistic sales ladies in Boots, or at beauty counters the length and breadth of Britain withold them, only opening their magical drawer of promise when you have already parted with large wodges of your cash on some piece of pricey snake oil.

The extension of this, of course, are those "free gift with two purchases (of which one skincare)" offers that act on my cerebral cortex like some kind of a class A narcotic, removing all sense, judgment and inhibitions. I MUST HAVE the bronze pleather beach bag with the pearlised pink lip gloss, the hand cream (hand cream, you are simply pointless, sorry) and the blue eyeshadow, dolly sized. It's pre-rational. I have to have it. I queue up with my fellow zombies to select the cheapest combination of product that gives access to free gift nirvana, ignore the scorn of the saleshags, snatch my dainty padded lurex pochette and run away, cackling, to admire my spoils. They are invariably 85% horrid and pointless to 15% useful, but somehow the total economic idiocy of these operations never discourages me.

It's not like that in France. For France is the land of Sephora. As a nineteen year old arriving in France, Sephora was like the land of milk and honey for me. Not only did it have the joy of self service shelves (no need to talk to drag queen faced gorgons to buy a bottle of cleanser!) and testers, but as a matter of course, whatever tiny item you bought, the girls on the counter would nonchalantly open their magic drawer, sweep up a handful of precious tiny magic items, and put them in your bag. Most of the fun of buying any kind of make up was in the bag of esoterica you would get with it, things you could take home and stroke gleefully. Usually, I wouldn't even get round to using them, or would discover they smelt like Dettol, or brought me out in a rash, or were a shade of foundation best described as 'baby poo'. That was Not The Point, however. The point was the freeness. The freeness extends even to French pharmacies,where they are quite liable to hand over whole fistfuls of treats even if you are only buying a toothbrush. Sometimes the samples you receive are quite puzzling, admittedly. I remember a work trip to Monte Carlo (this was before the credit crunch reduced us to cycling trips to Knokke la Zoute, ah, happy age of innocence) where after buying a facial scrub, I got a cream for cracked nipples and a mysterious nasal spray whose instructions were entirely in Italian. Not to mention this incident.

Of course, if the free samples are actually good, even better. My absolute best ever holiday was at Les Sources de Caudalie*, not just because it is a spa in a vineyard (and let's just take a minute over that. A Spa. In a VINEYARD. Does it get any better than that?), or because it's outrageously beautiful and stylish AND you get to fight with a giant homicidal swan and you might get to see someone halfway famous in their dressing gown. No. Because in the spa changing rooms they had giant baskets of free samples. And I mean GIANT. Every morning I would go down there in my robe and come out, pockets bulging with small tubes and phials. Then I would go back and do the whole thing again, and again, and again until the basket was empty. The massages were fantastic, sure, and the scrub with grape pips was an experience, but the real pleasure was sitting on my bed afterwards and gloating at my ever growing mountain of product samples. I still consider it one of my most cost effective holidays ever, since I didn't need to buy any skincare products for eighteen whole months thereafter.

There isn't really any point to this post except to say look!

Look how much FREE STUFF I have accumulated, and this is only at pharmacies, and from Céline. Never mind the quality, feel the quantity. Oooh. Free.

*For the avoidance of doubt, sadly Les Sources de Caudalie are NOT paying me to say this. Hardly surprising since I have basically just admitted to stealing most of their inventory. And I wonder why noone offers me free stuff on this blog? Pah.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Paris inventory

WARNING: The following post contains cake porn and heavy pancake make up on skin that has had 2 hours sleep. Some readers may find it disturbing.

I have been to Paris for the day. It is quite the thing travelling from the Normandy coast to Paris, what with changing trains in Lisieux under the disapproving gaze of St Thérèse, and the stops in many places with cheeses named after them. Add to this the ever present danger of forgetting to 'compost' and you are left with a day of unimaginable excitement. France, you are really very peculiar.

I have returned with:

1. Crucially, Fingers's passport. This was the hardest part, what with the Consulate being filled with mildly peeved British citizens tutting gently at the one open counter. British stereotypes fulfilled in the Consulate:

i) Loud narky Scouser who had lost passport in ill-defined lager related incident and was Not Happy.

ii) Sensible gentleman with Ordinance Survey maps, Michelin Guides, Rohan trousers and foot shaped sandals.

iii) Stoner youth with matted dreads and mild psychosis. Smell of decay.

iv) Lady of certain age in Liberty print blouse and plain beige skirt behaving entirely decorously, but brain bleedingly SLOWLY.

2. One of these:

A Ladurée violet religieuse.

I also got its less photogenic but more delicious cousin, the St Honoré aux Framboises. In my mind, this is the platonic ideal cake. It is basically a mountain of rose flavoured chantilly and pink iced choux pastry balls, with the odd raspberry and rose petal for decoration. 3 hours of regional trains were not kind to it, however, but here it is, a pale shadow of what it should be:

(As I type this the CFO is CUTTING IT IN HALF. How good a person am I? HOW GOOD???? St Thérèse has nothing on me. He doesn't even much like rose flavoured patisserie, what with being a man).

3. A Drag Queen Makeover courtesy of Céline on the Armani counter at Printemps Beauté. I wish I could show you the full splendour of Céline's work, when it had pneumatic lip gloss and nuclear blusher, but sadly, the broken air conditioning and consequent 32° heat on my 'Corail' (french for 'crap') train made most of it dissolve instantly. I can show you the melted, smeared leftovers though which nearly made the children cry in terror until they saw the macaroon box of peace.

Here I am imitating the terrifying facial expressions of Céline as she attacked me with her, uh, stuff.

Madame n'utilise pas de pinceaux pour appliquer le fond de teint?

Un petit peu plus de blush??

Et voilà, vous êtes ravissante!

I sincerely hope St Thérèse didn't catch a glimpse of my hooker make up as I changed platforms yet again in her manor. Céline was not as terrifying as the Yves Saint Laurent make up woman in Fenwicks, Oxford who once painted my entire face in Hiawatha stripes of orange, declaring shrewishly that I must stick to autumn colours as I was an autumn person. However, this is not saying much.

4. Of course I also got some books (Lynn Barber's memoir, Rebecca Miller's Personal Velocity and something well-reviewed but possibly a Man's Book called Harry Revised) and September Vogue which had the unfortunate side effect of turning me into a High Court Judge, fulminating at the mispelling of Mormon and apoplectic at the appearance of Pixie Geldof in a fashion spread (I mean, come ON). I am officially 114 years old, and none of Céline's best efforts can do a thing about it.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Fête round up, holiday edition

Firstly can I remind you about the Flickr Village Fête Group. GO. LOOK. Yeah, if I wasn't a useless shithead I would have put something on the sidebar here to remind us. [UPDATE: Scroll down to the bottom of the page and Marvel. At. The. Wonder. ] Ideally I want one of those boxes where you can see a few photos. Advice, anyone? Sinda and her daughters have been making a terrifying rainforest cake scene that I am more than a little envious of, whilst Peevish, last year's super duper supreme fête champion, and her daughters have made eery glue tear crying creatures. They are ace.

Lauren and Louis have been keeping busy preparing for the end of days. Quite correctly, one of their main concerns come the apocalypse is the absence of freshly brewed coffee, so they have fashioned a coffee machine out of household rubbish, and provided us with full instructions on how to make your own. I am calling this "miscellaneous" because, well, it is.

Says Lauren:

You put the grounds in the top, like so:

And then you pour water in after them, and the water flows down through a metal disk that used to be the bottom of this container. (see ragged top edge where disk was cleverly removed with a dull scissors) My son has pierced the disk several times with a hammer and large nail, and then covered it with some mystery packing material from IKEA that looks like a fine plastic mesh.
And so the water flows down into the cardboard area, making it a bit soggy but still perfectly functional. Some of the "coffee" comes out that hole there on the side, if you tip things just right; the rest flows out from wherever it likes around the bottom of the device until it finds its way into your cup, more or less.

This makes a lovely afternoon cup of cold coffee with some added texture, as you can imagine. We haven't yet tried hot water because we are concerned about the viability of the masking tape. We think more tape might do the trick.

Also falling into the eminently forgiving "miscellaneous" class are Keith's collages.



I asked the wimmin what they thought about this entry.

They were a little busy with a consciousness raising session but spared the time to view Keith's art work.

Germaine was a little scathing about what she describes as the relentless phallocentrism of his world view.

Andrea blames the patriarchy.

Gloria, oddly, is more interested in what's happening to our Control Lemon.

Gloria! Scandalous news of the Control Lemon! I can only think that the vibrations were too strong for him, even in protective casing of the barbecue.

Now I have to go and deal with a crab because shiny, perfect people from Paris are coming and in my terror I have somehow agreed to make crab pasta for them. I entirely know where this is going. By the time they arrive I will be shiny and red with thwarted effort and despair and coated in crab guts, and they will come in, all Hermès Un Jardin après le Mousson, Petit Bateau tops, Tod's loafers and shiny shiny hair and I will want to die and will sit tongue tied all evening necking Shopi vodka. Vive les vacances!