Sunday, 31 May 2009

Bat caves revisited



I know noone really understands my passion for the bat caves, but they really are quite extraordinary. Of course, I should explain that whilst there are bats, that is but the tip of a very Belgian iceberg. There is pretty much EVERYTHING. And lots of it just wanders around unrestrained, because they appear to be poor at fencing.


See below:





One more for scale:


Can you feel the pure joy emanating from the CFO on these pictures? I can. He would have liked to stroke its neck all the way back to Uccle.

Here, also, Fingers is pursuing a Small Furry Thing, found lurking free range near the pharaonically enormous and pointless temple. If you have any idea what it might be, do let me know and I can ring them up and explain laboriously what animal they have lost this time, not that they care.





Incidentally, you will note that Fingers has been on the receiving end from a haircut from the terrible Barber of Uccle, whose only qualification to describe himself as such appears to be one of those stripy poles, a pair of scissors and profound misanthropy. He looks like a tondue from 1945, all bald patches and tufty bits.


There was also an interesting moment when a dik dik, or something very similar, escaped and frolicked round the shack where a dour man was barbecuing sausages for a cast of thousands. It ran very fast in circles for a couple of minutes, jumped gracefully over the discarded ice cream wrappers and disappeared in the direction of the gift shop.


The reptile house is of course a highlight in my family.







Children not, I hope Getting Ideas.




Lashes made me take a picture of this. I think he thought they were having sex. He has hit an interesting new developmental stage where le sexe looms large, accompanied by graphic hand gestures that I doubt he actually understands. He explained to me what two dragonflies were up to with a sort of finger plus fist gesture that left little to the imagination.



"Do you think we need to TALK to him?" I hissed to the CFO after reporting back.



The CFO looked unmoved. "I am sure he has learnt everything he needs to from les grands at school".


I tend to agree. After my attempts to explain Tampax to Fingers, I feel I should be removed from all sex education discussions forever. If my children are to have any chance of having a fulfilling sex life somewhere along a spectrum broadly defined as normal, they are probably better off learning something far fetched from some smart ass nine year old.


I still have penance to distribute and will do so later today. Otherwise please keep me in your thoughts as it is a long weekend in Belgium and there has been serious discussion of going FISHING tomorrow.

Friday, 29 May 2009

The Belgian Waffle Secular Confession May Edition

It has been FIVE weeks since our last confession, people. Five. Imagine the petty badnesses we have all been up to! Maybe even big badnesses. I can barely wait to hear.

Of course before I can start revelling in yours, I have to show you mine. Urgh. It's not going to be pretty I'm afraid. I have had serious doubts about confessing at least one of these, but I don't feel that anonymous confession is the way forward for this particular one, particularly since I have admitted on Twitter that it relates to fish. Oh, christ, it is really bad. There will be hate mail. Shit. God. Ok, deep breath. Here goes.

Bless me internet for I have sinned. It has been five weeks since my last confession.


1. The really awful one

This weekend I stood by and DID NOTHING as the CFO flushed the 4 remaining live pontypines down the toilet. The pontypines are fish. Were fish. Um. Tropical fish. We have been waiting for them to die for months because a dog and six tortoises is stretching our nurturing skills way beyond their natural breaking point. Their tank has become fetid and green. We were just, sort of ignoring them and waiting for nature to take its course. BUT THEY WOULD NOT DIE. They are like the Glenn Close of tropical fish.

We had discussed what to do with them previously, and I had expressed horror and tried to fight the pontypines corner. But when the CFO had said to me, darkly, before I left for London "When you get back, the fish might have gone", I said nothing. Then I got back, but they were still there. Then last weekend, the CFO took a large salad bowl and disappeared upstairs. I said nothing. There was a flushing noise. I said nothing. And another flushing noise. Still nothing.

He came back downstairs. "The last one took ages to flush"

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. I am really struggling with admitting this, but that is what confession is for. For the ugly stuff. I can't bend the rules for myself even if this is my blog.


2. The parental fail one

I have been quite a shit parent recently. Actually, "in 2009" might be more accurate. Let us talk birthdays. Neither of my children has had a birthday party this year - Fingers birthday is 1 March, Lashes 3 May (you want to steal their identities? good luck). I used to be good to the point of demented hausfrauitude about birthday parties, researching fun activities and preparing party bags of stupid lavishness. This year? Well. I finally got round to desultorily calling the soft play place (ORIGINALITY FAIL) to book some kind of joint thing a couple of weeks ago. Then, this week, I realised that the date I had booked was actually this coming Sunday but we hadn't invited anyone, so I had to ring them up and pretend all the children had chickenpox. Hmm. It's decidedly not good. I can't quite bring myself to care this year. Poor children. I have already tired of their birthday festivities. Time to up my contributions to the therapy fund.

Oh, and I have unilaterally decided not to bother checking if Lashes has homework. I just ask him, and if he says no, I take his word for it. Ha! The child barely remembers his own name. But oh, god, homework for 7 year olds is a dismal business and hell, it's nearly the end of the school year and frankly I JUST CAN'T BEAR IT ANYMORE. OK???

Presumably I do not need to tell you about the swearing. Or the shit meals. Or the lax approach to toothbrushing. Yeah, thought not.


3. The elephant update one

Stupid elephant. I keep trying to bait it out of its corner with acts of selfish, lazy, thoughtlessness and abusive internet use. It will not come out. It's like I want it to come out, but I can't actually look it in the trunk and offer it a damn carrot. Take a hint, elephant. Do I really have to come over and poke you with a shiny baton?

Prize for the metaphor stretched so far beyond the bounds of good sense as to become TOTALLY INCOMPREHENSIBLE is awarded to me. Thank you.



Right, you know the drill. Penance for me, if you are so inclined, and confess your sins in the comments and I will give you some well thought out and not at all totally arbitrary penance. Look out for a possible anonymous confession from me in the comments too. Maybe. Maybe not.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

Le chagrin et le pygmé jerboa

Urgh, I am so broken today it's just not even funny any more. After reading my survey results and being surprised at how broken and unhappy some of you think I am, I have reacted in my usual twisted way by becoming exactly like that. I am a self-filling prophecy wrapped up in a paradox or something. Paradox burrito!

Exhibit 1

I have yet again slept sufficiently for Margaret Thatcher, but not for actual human beings. Though I was touched to hear that in the few hours of sleep I did get I snored like a tractor. Good. Feckless, useless, incompetent and a perpetual disturbance. The CFO is a lucky man at the moment.

Exhibit 2

I have chest pains. Not cardiac chest pains, craziness chest pains. The kind that are dull and aching rather than the panicky kind. I am always surprised when being sad hurts physically. It's weird. Today's pain feels a bit like the one I used to get in my first year at college when I used to sit in the college library and look at the happy couples snogging and revising together and so on before I trudged off to sit and be sad and despairing on a payphone. I keep poking my chest experimentally to see if I have pulled a muscle or something, but no. I have pulled my brain. Ow. See? There it goes again.

Exhibit 3

I have a chronic case of administrative paralysis, or stupidity, to give it its full technical name. The kind where picking up the phone to try and sort out the children's party (that I booked for this weekend and then forgot about so have invited noone - well played Emma) is like scaling the North Face of the Eiger in Louboutins. The CFO has asked me to go and do something to his sealed box of money in the bank cellar and I said I would but here I still am hoping that some kind of deus ex machina will sweep down from the lowering grey Uccle skies and dash off to ING in my place. There are lots of other things in this part but even thinking about them makes me feel nauseous and chekhovian.

Exhibit 4

I am seriously wondering if I should go back to some kind of therapy. God, it was awful - being bullied by firm but gentle women to do sensible grown up things. AWFUL. Things must be bad if I am even entertaining that thought for a second. But the desire to punch myself quite hard is becoming overwhelming. Or bite each of my fingers really hard in turn. Or dig my nails into my forearm as hard as I can. Perhaps I should talk to this man? He could cure all my ills by hitting me over the head. Hooray!

Exhibit 5

I am talking about how miserable I am on my usually lighthearted weblog which several members of my family read. Hello, family members.

Exhibit 6

I am going to post this even though I should just DELETE EVERYTHING and take a photo of some vegetables, or play 'ugliest European election poster photo'. Shall we play that soon? I can't imagine this long dark ING basement of the soul can last too long.


Here, have a video of the most ridiculous creature I have ever seen. M and I have measured it using our patented animal classification system and found it to be 75% face, 20% ludicrous and 5% bizarrely appealing. It's the least I can do for you.


Wednesday, 27 May 2009

The Empress of Uccle: a Revenger's Tragedy

Yesterday Mrs Trefusis said to me that if today was as uneventful as yesterday, I would be practically writing Waiting for Godot. I said that Wednesday was more like a Jacobean revenge tragedy. So of course being literal minded and in need of inspiration, I thought I should write Wednesday up in the manner of a Jacobean revenge tragedy. You recall how much I hate Wednesdays. They can only be improved by rivers of blood and slaying and revenge. Right? Right.



The Empress of Uccle: A Flanders Tragedy in One Act


Act 1, Scene 1


Castello Mutualité, Morning. The Empress of Uccle is in her bedchamber, with the covers pulled up concealing her imperious features. The Count of Chelonia strides in, stage right, and pulls back the curtains.


EU: Cover my face, mine eyes dazzle. I was up until three gchatting with that dinosaur girl.


CC: Mistress, I have much need of the car this morrow. I must to Charleroi, where his liege, the commercial director of Carpet World attends.


EU: Fie, sir. It is Wednesmorrow and I have sore need. The Dauphin must to the graphomotricienne and the Screech Owl is pained by the travails of walking to bricolage.


CC: Know, Mistress, who pays the road tax. I fly. The groomsmen of Taxi Bleu must suffice. Mind that thy allocations familiales papers are despatched with due speed.


Exit Count of Chelonia. Enter the princes who arrive in the bedchamber and sit on the Empress's head.


ScreechOwl: Sweet mama, why dost thou lie abed in foul distemper? I need Cheerios.

Dauphin: My doublet and hose resist discovery. I left them at the gulag.

EU: Ah, my pretties, quiet thy prating and away thee to the kitchen. You can get a packet of biscuits each. Prithee do not return until seven of the clock.


The Hound is audible offstage


Dauphin: Dost thou hear the chirrup of the Hound, mama?

EU: The hound! 'Tis the very hound of hell come to drag me to my ruin. Can you put him in the yard?


Exeunt the princes. The Empress turns to the Holy Tortoise


EU: Would that this day would take on the shroud of endless night where all my dark imaginings take on wraithlike forms and dance techtonik. At least it's Apprentice later.

HT: I misdoubt it. The Count is sore displeased at thy black deeds watching tv late into the blackest canopy of night.


EU: How tedious is a guilty conscience, thou wretched shelled creature that creepeth. Thou shalt see my will before this day is out.

The Empress takes a penknife from her desk drawer and hides in in her corsetry.




******************




Act 1, Scene 2


The Empress and the Dauphin are in a Taxi Bleu


TaxiDriver: Prithy Mistress, the roads are much importuned this morrow.

EU: It matters not a whit, my humour is a black as it could be. Blacker still would laugh in the face of reason. 'Twas ever thus in these low lands. Take the Avenue de Fré.

Dauphin: Mama, wouldst thou be much displeased if the new coat that thou hast procured for me from Zara last weekend were to have flown the nest, I know not wither?


EU: Thou art much distracted of late. If I have to buy you another one I will be taking it out of your pocket money, I vouchsave thee.


TaxiDriver: Madam, the crone's dwelling fast approaches. Twenty guineas is my entreaty if it please your grace.


EU: Twenty guineas! 'Tis a dark entreaty to be sure.


TaxiDriver: the way through the forest is dark with badger, ermine, hawk and big trousered circus performers with those stupid diabolo things. 'Tis perilous.

EU: I will teach thee the ways of darkness and peril, wretch.


She stabs him.


TaxiDriver: I die. 'Twas a poor thing to take the Avenue de Fré.

Dauphin: Mama? What ails the wretch?

EU: 'Tis but a moment's slumber my pretty. Let us away to the crone.




********************


Scene 3

The crone's hovel


Crone: Fie, Empress. Thy tardiness displeases me greatly and thou shalt pay a great price in pearly tears for thy trespasses. Come, Dauphin, we must away to build paper lizards and tell sad stories of the use of the pencil.


EU: A curse on your house, wretch. I can hear no more of thy insolence*. Though hast twiddled thy last lump of playdoh.

She stabs her.


Crone: Oh blackest mistress, the guardians of the very doors of hell would turn thee away such is thy calumny. The spiky pelted Seigneur Milinkovitch of the gulag shall hear of this.

EU: You may await him in hell, foulest succubus. Come Dauphin, we must abstract our fetteloques from this sinister place.



*************************

Scene 4

Castello Mutualité. The Empress is lying prone in the bedchamber in a pool of blood under a pile of Grazia magazines as the hound licks her face. The Count of Chelonia enters stage left.


CC: A pox upon the usurious lepers of Charleroi.. But what fresh hell is this? Glitter? Sellotape? Heavy shiny paper carrier bags? The hound in the bedchamber? Empress, I see your foul and treacherous hand in this, you impudent snake. Where are the Dauphin and the Screech Owl?

EU: Gone to meet their maker. They did love Nintendo Pokemon Diamond and Pearl not wisely but too well. Now they dance with Jigglypuff.

CC: All my little ones? Pray god, not the holy tortoise too? Didst thou make a mess on the rug?

EU: What care is it of yours? Know only this: as sure as the bats in the bat cave hang by their silken claws, I shall fan the flames of the fiery furnace afore I wear slippers.

He stabs her. She stabs the Holy Tortoise. The Hound eats their corpses. Exit the Hound.

Fini.



(*I like the crone. Dramatic licence only here. )

Monday, 25 May 2009

Mens sana in corpore whatever

I don't feel terribly healthy at the moment. Bizarre. What could be healthier than 5 hours sleep a night, endless cups of builders' tea, Levonelle abuse, whole meals composed of confectionery and no exercise? I am totally certain that was the diet of the week in Grazia recently. It was definitely featured on Lorraine Kelly.



Indeed, the whole household seems a little under the weather. The CFO is complaining of a sore throat and feeling 'space', a tenuous French concept that seems to manifest as gloomy silence interspersed with over the top shouting. We take it in turns to twitch at night - I take the early shift, unable to sleep before 1 or 2; then he takes over, waking at 4. By 6 I am sitting morosely in the kitchen poking the dog, while he is out in the back yard performing a tortoise census. The weepette and the children have runny noses, but the dog is more stoic about it (presumably still reflecting on the words of Marcus Aurelius).

On top of this, Lashes has a terrifying verrucca that looks like it has a plan for world domination. We tried to sneak up on him during the night to use the burning freezing tool of pain, but I had an uncontrollable giggling fit whilst trying to grab his scrabbly, twitching foot and woke him up. There is something so funny and so mournful about the puzzled expression of a child that you have accidentally woken. It reminds me of all my mother's stories of Glaswegian menfolk coming home from a night on the piss and waking the baby for entertainment. The last time I woke him up in the middle of the night it was, as per his express request, to show him a toad I had just caught. The toad hopped all over the duvet and then peed on us, but Lashes did not remember a single thing about it in the morning. I wish I slept like that. Once woken, I got to adopt my now familiar Lashes brace position (also used for the removal and insertion of stitches, blood tests, injections and claw trimming) while the CFO did the scorching (He always gets to be bad cop; he does it so well). It doesn't seem to have done any good. I have offered him the prospect of a trip to Dr Kevorkian, the dead eyed verucca killer of Uccle, but he flatly refuses. The leaflet from the deadly potion says veruccas naturally disappear after 2-3 years, so I suspect we will be going with that option. I remember trying to cut my own verucca off with scissors rather than tell anyone when I was about 10, so I sympathise.


The thing is, I believe my body owes me one (for the alopecia, the knee of death, the freak pregnancies), and has to be on its best behaviour for the rest of my life regardless of what abuse I throw at it. Sadly my body has not received this memo and continues to go about its brisk business of decline and decay. This is compounded by a demented belief that there is something very decadent and unBritish about looking after yourself. We must ignore all signs of decrepitude until our falling limbs and involuntary groans start to inconvenience our neighbours. It is The British Way.

Do you look after yourselves, citizens of the internet? And if so, do you recommend it?

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Tell me what you want and I will ignore you entirely

I don't suppose you will be terribly surprised that I am going to let you down and show you the Belgian election videos you have expressly pleaded with me not to show you. But they are wonderfully Belgian and I am still in a stew of ennui and gloom and cannot be trusted to form sentences which don't include reference to WOE. Also, I have changed the background colour so I DO LISTEN. Sort of. When it suits me.

Look.

First, the Greens who have added subtitling to an episode of (not even remotely) cult German import detective series, Derrick. The CFO's granny watches this every week, alternating with the virtually identical 'Renard'.



For the benefit of non French speakers, the subtitles go something like:


- So you're on the pull instead of out canvassing?
- I am just explaining to her how to create loads of green jobs
- She looks fascinated
- And how to insulate homes
- Are you seduced?
- Great! She's gone to vote!
- No, but the manifesto is great. They have 29 years of experience. Give me that pamphlet.
- Have you heard about the plan to create lots of employment opportunities in Brussels that can't be delocalised?
- No, should I?
- It's very good news for Brussels
- Would you like a drink?
- Yes!

Um, ok.

The second one, from a centrist MR candidate, needs little or no explanation. It is just some crazy bastard running through fountains SET TO THE BAYWATCH THEME TUNE.



I love this. It makes me happy. I want to emulate him, especially at the Square du Petit Sablon, which is seconds from work. I would, if it weren't for the forbidding parkies who lurk in their tiny shed behind a bush and leap out to mutter at you reproachfully you look at the grass in the wrong way.

Now. Enough of Belgian politics. Tell me something delightful or disturbing about your weekend. I am saving my lowest moment of the weekend for Confession, which I will be hosting here this coming Friday. I hope you will all be disgustingly bad for me.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Reader Satisfaction Survey

I am hiding in my bed, listening to the cacophony of shouting, barking and bellowed instructions outside. I have no clue in the world what is going on out there, but I know I want no part of it. Where are the cupcakes, the adult conversation, the reading and the luxuriant hours sitting in cafés? Pah. The next hour holds the giddying prospect of tidying the children's bedrooms so that the babysitter doesn't actually have convulsions when she comes tonight.

I am all about the people pleasing, so I feel I need to do a little market research to ensure you are getting the Waffle you desire. Your custom is important to me, and in order to serve you better, I would urge you to please complete the Waffle Questionnaire below. If you take a few moments to do so, you will be entered into a prize draw making you eligible for a vague promise from me to send you 'something' 'sometime' which will never materialise into actual stuff, causing you to hate and resent me. There are many of you who can testify to this.



Questions



1. You are a girl aren't you? If no, please move to questions 1b - f



1b Are you sure? If no, move to 1c



1c Then you're gay, aren't you? If no, move to 1d



1d Really? If yes, move to 1e.



1e Gosh, ok. Right. Why are you here? Did you get lost on your way to one of those interesting keyword searches? Belgian Housewife Sluts or something? Slattern here, not slut. Less thrilling, more moths. I don't actually believe 'you' exist. Show me a copy of your passport.

1f Don't you find the emotional incontinence and discussion of clothes a bit, you know, nauseating? Not even the man I have lived with for the last fifteen years reads this. He would rather clean up weepette sick.



2. How did you end up here?

a) Looking for Belgian Sluts

b) Sunday Times Top 100

c) Another blogger's recommendation/blogroll

d) I like tortoises

e) I do not know or care, I only come here to laugh at you. I feel slightly sick and ashamed afterwards, as if I have binged on peanut M&Ms.



3. What is your favourite feature?

a) Confessional and all the other bits where you tell us what a fuckwit you are

b) Delicious recipes and handy tips for homemakers

c) Angst ridden mournful pieces about death and misery

d) Weepette porn

e) Repulsive outsider craft projects

f) Tortoises

g) The fact that the commenters are much funnier than the actual posts. I used to like it when you replied to all the comments but now you are a lazy bitch and only do it every few days or so. You are shit.



4. Are you looking forward to the Village Fête 2009? What categories would you particularly like to see in this year's event?


5. Would you like me to show you some Belgian election videos tomorrow? Apparently they are FANTASTIC. If yes, can someone explain to me how to embed video content?


6. This blog looks like shit visually, doesn't it? Should I bother doing something about it? If so, what?


7. If you could change one thing about Belgian Waffle, what would it be?



I think my hour is up. There is a filthy urchin clawing at my mouse and querying the economics of blogging. His questions are valid and his fingerclaws are disgusting. I must go. Thank you for participation. Or not. It is Saturday after all, the day when noone in their right minds is on the internet.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

In which I am pre-emptively homesick

The sun has been shining all day as a demonically clever and careful surgeon did my brother's brain biopsy without incident. He's in ICU recovering sore and battered with a set of deliciously toxic wafers in his head, and we can all breathe a little easier, momentarily.



London in the sunshine is an odd proposition - it has caught at least half of the city out and they are suffering in opaque tights and rain coats while many of the rest are in equally ill-advised vest tops. The South Bank where I find myself, twitchy and paranoid at crossing the river (to the land where, so we North Lononders tell each other as we gather together to worship at Centrepoint, man eating dragons roam free), is bizarrely festive, with The Perpetually Present Mariachi Band (says Antonia when we share a cupcake in the sun and ideas for new Mills & Boon series combining the evergreen popularity of tweed, moors and doctors with our new emphasis on necrophilia) serenading groups of Italian youths with matching rucksacks and some really hideous street performers making me want to claw my own eyes out. At least my ridiculous packing looks a little less outlandish with the temperature grazing 18 degrees and I don't look quite so much like a refugee from a Newcastle nightclub with pimply blue bare legs and high heeled lilac sandals. I seem to find it impossible to remember what season this is but I feel sure it is not 'dress like a crazed slut month'.



With no childcare or huddling duties for the afternoon and Frank not allowed visitors for a couple of days, I manage to walk across a good swathe of London, from Westminster to Waterloo, then across to Covent Garden, up Neal Street, Seven Dials, Charing Cross Road, Oxford Street and back on the tube to Notting Hill when an incipient blister starts threatening. I am doing magnificently at the not shopping until I reach Magma when it all instantly goes wrong and I flit around distracted and enchanted by the Rob Ryan cards, make your own monster kits, perpetual calendars, Japanese soft toys, light fittings and am almost incapable of leaving without sweeping the whole shop into my suitcase. My suitcase is giving me some concern anyway, since I appear to have bought 10 books so far and counting, and only read one very short one (this). On top of the five pairs of shoes I brought with me plus the laptop, I don't see getting back to Brussels in one piece as an easy enterprise.



Getting back to Brussels, apart from the obvious and manifold delights of the boys ("have you found our present yet? Fingers wants the Ben 10 alien set and I want the Pokemon Ouistisinge marble shooter HAVE YOU GOT THE PRESENTS no, don't want to talk we are watching Oggy and the Cockreeeches HAVE YOU GOT OUR PRESENTS") is not a prospect filling me with much joy. This week is moving much too fast, galloping away from me as I try and hold onto every scrap of it. I feel a bit torn. Actually, who am I kidding, I feel ripped into shreds at the thought of leaving. I know it isn't quite yet and I still have lunch with The Internet's Most Glamorous tomorrow and even when I do go, it's only two hours on the train. And yet, and yet. I know all the reasons we live in Belgium and I know it was very much my decision, but OUCH.

Ouch.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

London notes with limited battery

This will be disjointed and probably end abruptly when my laptop dies. You are forewarned, read on at your own risk.

Ah, London. I am shoved in the corner of a non-moving Central Line carriage while something unspeakable is sorted out at Queensway and a crazy man mutters behind me when I catch sight of the front page of the Mirror someone is reading below me. FREE PASTY FOR EVERY READER! it trumpets, followed by a full page of Katie 'n' Peter. I almost weep for joy. Home. I want to fashion myself a nest out of discarded copies of London Lite and Benjy's cups and stay here forever.

Not yet on auntie duty, I get a whole day to myself to wander gleefully around London. Oddly, this time I don't feel the usual compulsion to go and gather up as much Stuff as I can to bring little pieces of London back with me (surely I am not becoming economically responsible? No, impossible), and instead content myself with wandering luxuriantly slowly through Liberty (complete redesign! mainly positive, the useless vague waitresses in the cafe remain and the terrifying Japanese room of assymetry still exists), Fenwicks (discovered they have moved all the stuff I like - Sonia, Erotokritos, Paul & Joe - up to the top floor), Selfridges and Boots in turn, carefully marvelling at the endless loveliness. I sit alone and very peacefully in Liberty cafe drinking Darjeeling and eating a large slice of victoria sponge; it is blissful. Violet and I meet up in our usual Carluccios haunt in Fenwicks basement for more tea and hilarity and for me to marvel at the gigantic creature she appears to be cooking up. Violet's boyfriend, chosen particularly for his extremely narrow shoulders, appears to be something of a disappointment in the cooking of small babies department.

Next observation: I have become an out of towner, dressing up and putting my face on to go 'up west' like the cast of Eastenders. This is chastening for a girl who used to live 2 minutes off Oxford Street and often went down there for the paper in her pyjamas. I totter down South Molton Street in my tiny Vanessa Bruno silk dress and Ferragamos, looking for all the world like an escaped footballers wife who took a wrong turn on the way to Gucci. Ridiculous. Unfortunately some kind of mental collapse occurred whilst I was packing and I have FIVE short black dresses, no pyjamas, no flat shoes and only one pair of trousers that I have already stained with ginger exfoliating scrub. I have to buy a toothbrush and break my Ferragamos falling over my own legs. I am a packing failure of immense proportions.

After a day of intense joy with my favourite city in the entire universe, I collapse into the bearded one's Notting Hill lair (he is out saving the world) and sleep for 12 hours, waking up very briefly to blearily eat some chocolate and drink a pint of water. It rains intermittently and the posh school next door is jasmine scented. I feel like I am on drugs, actually feeling rested, drinking decent cappucinos and inhaling the scent of buses, rainy streets pigeon faeces and Subway. It is AMAZING.

Next, BMF and I hole up in the Wolseley to compare notes on our respective midlife crises over breakfast. They are both coming along nicely. In another five years the pair of us will be in an asylum, hopefully the same one, so we can bitch about the standards of catering and share delusions. Once we have character assasinated ourselves sufficiently and I am climbing the walls with caffeine poisoning, I head off to poison myself still further with the opium of BOOKS, where my abstemious approach to London breaks down and I can barely drag my bag out of Hatchards. I haven't even been to Daunt yet. (Add any other purchase recommendations in the comments, I have to stock up while I can, even at the cost of breaking my back carrying them back to Brussels)


Later today I will finally get around to doing what I came here for and go and see my brother and my niece and nephew and my bubble of selfish joy will be popped because what is happening to them all is unbearable and should not be allowed. And I will sit uselessly and shoot my lame mouth off and try and think of things to say that are not rubbish. And it will be impossible because everything I can think to say is rubbish. But at least I can bring books on mummification and Power Rangers and other kinds of tat and be around, huddling.

Also, I am sitting writing this in Pain Quotidien, because apparently, I cannot get enough of Belgium. I am clearly a freak and even my pathetic excuses of ginger cake and WiFi cannot excuse me.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

The school fête and associated whingeing

This is in the way of being a shitty narrative post, since I am broken. You will have to excuse me, you will see why below.

You know, I'm torn as to quite what the worst part of today was. There are lots of contenders.

I have been up since 5 (because that's how I roll as described recently), and because this happens all the time at the moment, the cumulative effect is to make me feel like someone has helpfully sanded my top ten layers of skin off with fine gauge sandpaper. They have gone even more heavily on my eyes and ears. I am RAW. Noise is a cruel assault on my sensibilities but unfortunately none of Oscar, Lashes, Fingers or the CFO appears to have received that memo. Indeed, one might surmise that they have received an alternative memo, stating that the family who shouts loudest has the greatest and most enduring mental health. At seven I was worming the dog just to grind some meagre satisfaction out of my morning.


First, the CFO chose today to undertake not one but two demented household projects, first moving all stereo equipment from one room to another, then taking down and washing the most complex set of blinds on the planet. The stereo equipment task involved - swearing, dust, displacement of cupboards full of shit that were JUST FINE where they were, 'testing' audio quality at ear bleeding volume and unplugging the internet. The blind task involved becoming bizarrely tangled in a spider's web of differing lengths of string that had to be held in a particular masonic formation, whilst balanced on a window ledge. Only the thought of breaking several limbs and not being able to go to London kept me hanging on to the frame with my fingernails.


In the background the children tried to remove each other's heads with discarded power tools all the while repeating at nauseating volume 'C'est la fête de l'école!' (yes, as if I would ever be allowed to forget it). In the ensuing chaos Oscar was able to climb onto the kitchen worktop and eat a whole packet of parma ham. We had probably reached about eight thirty in the morning by then. I was then given a brief moment of respite to go and fetch some dry cleaning and take out giant amounts of cash to haemorrhage at the school fête. I think we can safely identify that, and now, as the high points of the day. I tried to hide for ten minutes to gather some strength for the trials ahead on my return, but was tracked down to my bed where Lashes performed a two kneed wrestling jump onto my rib cage.


Next, the school fête, cinema themed, was blessed with frequent freak rain showers and some terrible outfits including a woman in a dressing gown with a grey wig on being Cruella de Vil that really caught my imagination. The headmaster, however, was elegance itself in a tuxedo. I tried very hard to take his picture for your delight, but the CFO was censorious and confiscated the camera, citing 'low battery'. The school fête format is that you wander around the schoolyard like a lost soul parting with your money and occasionally file into the sports hall to watch some excruciating dance routine. Even parting with your money is not made easy. You can't simply pay for stuff that your children are chewing your ears off about, nooo, that would be too easy. First you must queue up to buy a piece of paper in order to buy things. The pieces of paper come in three or four impenetrable varieties and whatever you want to buy, you can be confident that the one you chose will be the only one that doesn't work.


If I tell you that Fingers' dance routine was performed in swimming trunks and goggles to Erasure's I Love to Hate You are you getting a slight sense of the overwhelming weirdness? Oh, I probably have pictures. Hang on, here you go:






(There was a girl in a wedding dress too, yes. Not explained; nothing was even remotely understandable about the whole business).


Lashes got off more lightly with High School Musical. It was dire, but less eventful. Look how much he is enjoying himself:



Once immediate parental torment duties were over, we were released to sit in the schoolyard, shelter from the rain and hand out €20 notes. There weren't even any good cakes. Back when I was a moderately enthusiastic parent, there would have been several dozen appropriately decorated and glittery fairy cakes from me. Thankfully I have reclaimed some scrap of sanity and no longer go in for this kind of thing. Instead there are long bamboo skewers with dozens of Haribo sweeties stuck on them, the famous 'brochettes de bonbons'. The ideal playground snack, they combine the rocket fuel hypermania potential of sugar with a pointy offensive weapon. All this for only three squares of your yellow paper, or one blue and one green but absolutely not, under no circumstances the red paper.

On the way out, removing marshmallow remains from my trouser leg, the two bouncers - proper ones in those shiny silk bomber jackets and shades, built like frietkots who were manning the doors (like anyone would go if they weren't bound by ties of blood to do so) asked me why Lashes' coat was ripped.

"I have no idea. He probably fell over something. He often does"

"You did it madam, didn't you? Parental violence is endemic"

"Don't be ashamed madam, you can speak to the school's pyschological cell"

"Is that lady your friend? She should come too. It's a hard subject to speak about. Shame is rife. The first step is for you both to admit you have a problem. Come on, both you ladies should come along"

Weird double act. Weird day. It's half past ten and the CFO is trying to set radio stations on his new audio palace, again at ear splitting volume. Saturday, you have not been kind. I am putting you out of your misery even if it means leaving this post like the halfhearted heap of shit it is.


[M made me promise not to write about elephants, but she has gone out and I MUST tell you that finally things may be happening with Phyo Phyo. The website says "Phyo Phyo excrète du mucus" which has to be one of the odder sentences even I have written. Watch this space! I will fill you in on entertaining keeper incompetence as and when it happens! ]

Friday, 15 May 2009

The Belgian school of elephant husbandry



So. Where were we? Ah yes, elephants.


There is an elephant at Antwerp Zoo that is expecting a baby. The whole of Belgium has been waiting for the birth of the baby elephant since last year. The baby elephant is coming! It has its own website! It is due in March! There is a competition to choose its name! We can watch the birth live on the zoo webcam!


Yeah. Well. March came and went. And April. I have been muttering 'hysterical pregnancy' for weeks now, whilst clicking on bébé éléphant repeatedly to check on Pjo Pjo's progesterone levels. I know more about that creature's hormones than my own (shut up). I have played 'pin the head on the ultrasound foetus' after Monk pointed it out to me. She said she 'considered signing up for a text alert when baby is due, by which time mobiles will be obsolete and we will be communicating via ESP'. This looks increasingly likely. We have compared notes on the latest update which says that apparently Pjo Pjo is crying, which may conceivably mean she is anxious because the birth may possibly be imminent (desperate qualifying clauses, well done Antwerp Zoo, could you make it sound any less probable). If I had been pregnant for TWO YEARS I would be crying too. Pjo Pjo we are all with you. Be thankful your relatives aren't all on the phone every five minutes asking you how you feel, or if there's any news.


Also causing me great entertainment is the shamefaced video 'update' from the keeper, answering the question on the whole of Belgium's lips : HOW could you get it SO WRONG? Apparently he says, in a pained fashion, they 'missed a mating'.


Let us just reflect for an instant on that. Are you telling us, Antwerp Zoo, that you missed TWO ELEPHANTS HAVING SEX? You didn't notice at all? Were you, perhaps, busy watching 'C'est du Belge' at the time? Dancing to the Sound of Music in Central Station? Enjoying your cat throwing festival?



Belgium. You are bewildering.

A post as interesting as the test card

Where is Jaywalker? Where is she, that all her commenters anxiously message her?

I am here. I am in exactly the same spot at the desk of squalor that I have been for the past two days but something appears to have transformed the contents of my head into a swirling mush of credit crunch soup. I am:

1. Putting some writing together for meetings next week. It must be good, or I will have fucked up my doubtless only chance to escape a life of directives. It is not good. It is decidedly average. It is B minus writing at best. I concluded in the bath last night that whilst I might read it myself, I would do so with a superior sneer, whincing at all the clunky phrases in it. It is hard to write when you are disgustingly critical. I am not big on self-acceptance, you may have noticed, and prefer self-flagellation. I am doing lots of self-flagellation because I can't allow myself to do lots of deleting, which I would like even better.

2. Fretting, wondering, clicking between fifteen open windows, starting posts and giving up on them. Grinding my teeth a lot, apparently. All night. Waking at five, when it's already light and not being able to get back to sleep. It reminds me of when Lashes was born, and would wake me at four and then I would not being able to get back to sleep because I had had a baby, Christ, what was I thinking, and it was mine forever now AND it was light and would I ever sleep again etc etc. Of course, waking at 5 is more fun in Central London because you can sit on your windowsill and watch drunks trying to go home. In Uccle all you can do is wake the dog up and poke it.

3. Trying to sort out next week because I want to see everyone but it's all predicated on a couple of great imponderables which are leaving me paralysed for decision making purposes. One of them involves a hole being drilled in my brother's head again, and that is decidedly crap. There are lots of other wonderful things also happening and it is all leaving me a little confused. Remember that in a normal week I totter from the desk of doom to the corridor of ennui and back and very little else. It is quite overwhelming.

3. Getting nothing, but nothing done of a practical sort. I forgot to take Lashes to the whiskery woman on Wednesday. I had one - one! - thing to do today - buy hair gel (for the goddam ridiculous school fête, no don't ask, so far I have had to provide a pair of blue Crocs, a mask and snorkel and €4, 20). It's nearly two. I have to pick the children up in an hour. I have not been. I only took the dog out because it was pissing me off so much, finding endless things to gnaw and be painful about. It is distracting me from my one woman tooth grinding circus.

4. Not reading blogs, which is a bit like not breathing. I started again this morning and I already feel much better. I think I was in withdrawal. The balm of reading other people's words is already starting to take the edge of the crazy.


In summary I am ok, if a little deranged and normal service will resume, at the latest, after next week. In the meantime I do have something very important to tell you about Belgian elephant husbandry and will be trying to do so later today between tooth grinding bouts.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

£500 a year and all the squalor you can bear

Sorry, sorry. I was just too tired yesterday evening. Usually I post at work on Mondays and Tuesdays, but they have developed an extraordinarily inconsiderate habit of making me do my job occasionally. Also, I have to persuade our new assistant not to leave; her Belgium honeymoon is over. It lasted less than a week.

"It looked ok this morning, so I didn't bring a coat" she said to me mournfully yesterday as we ventured out hastily in a flat grey sheet of Belgian rain to find a sandwich. "The weather changes so quickly here, and mainly for the worse". She looked so dejected in her pretty sleeveleess dress I wanted to hug her.

I squeezed her shoulder in silent support and guided her into the metro tunnel, where the smell of waffles and the esoteric mid '90s hits raised her mood a little. But keeping her from resigning demands constant vigilance and small squares of chocolate and advice on where to buy meat that isn't made from tapeworms.

Anyway, that wasn't what I meant to say today. I meant to say someone referred in passing in an email recently to 'your desk'. And it made me think, internet, that you should see what I have to put up with in terms of working conditions.

This, gentle reader, is my "desk". I have annotated the picture for ease of reference. I don't think anyone will be surprised to hear that I have done so very ineptly, so you will have to click on the pictures to actually see the numbering. And then click back to see what it means. By which time you will have entirely forgotten what you were doing in the first place and lost the will to live. You will also hate me. Could I be any more user friendly? No. I am SERVICE ORIENTED, people.



A room of one's own - part I

My 'desk'. Here I sit, hunched and grinding my teeth, usually very cold, surrounded by crap.



1. Quick tray. Stolen back in the mists of time when the CFO used to occasionally behave in a mildly irresponsible fashion. Lashes came home disconsolate the day I made his Pokémon birthday cake and sent him to school with it on this tray. "Everyone said I had stolen it from Quick". A new and unexpected strand of parental guilt then.


2. This fucker - free with your obesity friendly Quick Magic Box - is leaching out my will to live. It has a hair trigger, and at the slightest hint of movement, it bursts into cheery song, complete with bouncing sound effects. I hate it with the heat of a thousand suns. Hey, shall I throw it in the bin? YES. I WILL. I am the Toy Terminator.

3. This is extraordinary so worthy of comment. My remote access thing for work is actually. on. the. computer. As opposed to in the bath, or the dog, or stuck approximately to the inner tube of a loo roll with an entire roll of sellotape to make a robot. I use it to check on internet frippery deliveries to work mainly.

4. Screws and stuff. Part of Lashes' meccano robot. The ones that aren't spread around causing near fatal accidents or being ingested by household pets.

5. The curtains. They used to smell mysteriously of hamsters. Now they smell of dog wee. Hateful.


A room of one's own - part II
The view from my 'desk'.


1. A solar powered robot spider, frequently to be found in:

2, the tortoise house with its state of the art heating and lighting system. Note also one of those RIDICULOUS weather stations on top of it, just to check on the wellbeing of our tiny shelled friends. I have just gone to check and it is 17° in here, the downside of the only UPside of this room - the garden view. I am cold. So cold, my tiny hand is freezing, etc etc I am about to break into romantic arias and then maybe lie on the floor and die of consumption.

3. Actual Work on my inept and barely started writing project. Actually I have just checked what part it is, and it's a part I have already reread through my fingers and deleted. Maybe I could go crazy and put it in the bin too? Yes! We are tidying! And it's all thanks to you.

4. This can be our mystery item of the day. What do you think Item 4 is?

5. This giant box of crayons, as well as containing a selection of packaging, biscuit crumbs and lost VPN tags, is full of all manner of lidless pens and broken crayons but let me tell you with pinpoint accuracy what it does not contain: any pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, red or black felt tips, or normal pens for writing with. I do an inventory at least once a day whilst looking for one of those things.

6. Whilst it is entirely evident I have no self-respect or standards from the foregoing, I would like to say that the marks on the table cloth are paint. Just paint. It is the special painting tablecloth. Why is it there when noone is painting? Good question. Maybe I have grown to love its cheery orange motif. MAYBE NOT.


A room of one's own Part III

Do not, whatever you do, rustle in or make anything that could be construed as an eating noise at my desk, or you will be instantly greeted by this sight.



For the remainder of the day tremulous weepette eyes will stare at you. Occasionally the intense staring is accompanied by a high pitched whimpering noise that makes you want to gouge your eardrums out. Lay your head on the filthy keyboard and join in. This is the environment from which true creativity stems.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Dissipated

I am late, I know. Late and inconsiderate. There are lots of emails I haven't replied to yet and I haven't replied to your funny and touching comments on the last two posts either. Will it make you feel better if I tell you that I haven't listened to my work voicemail since January? That I can't get it together to get undressed for bed most evenings and just sleep in whatever I'm wearing or can locate on the floor? That I'm mainly eating dry crackers and vitamins? Yesterday night Prog Rock made the dinner, presumably in despair at the thought of more takeaway. Trout (result of household Fishing Expedition, no I didn't go, I would rather claw my own face off) stuffed with baby garlic shoots and a salad. It was easily the most nourishment I had had in weeks.

"This is one of the easiest possible dinners isn't it? It's SO EASY!" he said.

The CFO burst into barbed laughter.

"You've never met Uncle Ben's Microwave Rice, have you?" he asked.

I was similarly hysterical.

"Real fishes? With fresh things inside that needed chopping? Ha!".

Suffice to say our home is not the domestic idyll I painted seductively to the CFO when I went part time. The CFO and Prog Rock shared lots of anecdotes about my domestic ineptitude during the weekend. How they both laughed as they remembered me telling the cleaner in Paris the hoover "must be broken" when in fact I had just never used it and had no idea how to switch it on.

"But was it a new hoover?" asked Prog Rock delightedly.

"No! We had had it for three years!" replied the CFO laughing (but there is pain behind the laugher).


"Sally used to sweep little piles of dust in the centre of the floor" reminisces Prog Rock later "they used to drive me crazy. She was many things, but a housewife was not one of them".

"I would settle for little piles of dust" says the CFO sadly "that would be a huge improvement".



But wait, usually I neglect my house and my responsibilitites for my blog. What on earth is happening if I start to neglect my blog too?


It would be nice to say that I am taking time to appreciate how precious the smaller things are (as suggested by womens magazines everywhere) . Imagine this scene in a slightly golden soft focus: I am blowing bubbles with tousleheaded laughing children, running in the shallow waves on the beach with a demented but elegant dog, reading an improving book in a deep lavender scented bubble bath, doing a soulful watercolour of a kitten, wearing a pretty smock and a dreamy, nurturing expression.


Ha.


Or! We could suggest that I am deep in a particularly tricky section of the Great Belgian Novel I am writing. That things are going so well that I cannot bear to leave my precious manuscript for a second.

We could say that. It would be a lie, but we could say it.

We can also rule out: expansive DIY projects. Socialising. Important cultural events. Charity work. Study. Paid work. It is none of these.

No. The truth is, I am simply being EVEN MORE OF A MORON THAN USUAL. Sorry, sorry. You may line up to kick me now. Berate me in the comments box. Remind me of all the things I have said I will do and haven't. There are lots I know. I have scrabbly bits of paper with 'lick a painting' and 'waffles torment me' written on them.

In an attempt to get myself back on track, I have vowed to go to the Post Office next week. Those of you I remember I owe presents are: Potty Mummy, RedFox, Fat Controller, M, Katyboo. Others, make your claims in the comments. I probably owe half the readers of this blog a present, don't I? I will make it up to you, my lovelies. Tomorrow I take my camera to school for Pamela Anderson's floats. I will try and make contingency blogging plans for my week in London, even if it means going into the giant mother pod of ennui.


Tonight, however, all I have to offer is this frankly terrifying photo of Fingers and his fish. Am I the only one who thinks this is the first step on a slippery slope that will end with all three of them in camouflage fatigues reading 'Guns and Ammunition'?





The subtext in the CFO taking the children fishing is clear, to me at least. It's a warning. Unless I get it together he is taking them both off to live in a survivalist camp full of weaponry somewhere in the Ardennes. There will be no little piles of dust, and no dogs sitting on €400 coats. No moths. His eyes go a little dreamy when I suggest this. Should I be worried?

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Dads in spandex pants

Yet another change of tone on the schizoid rollercoaster that is Belgian Waffle.

You might recall that at the hospital this week, Lashes and I amused ourselves with a packet of wrestling cards. They are sitting on the table with me now and causing me all sorts of amusement.

For some reason, I am getting the most fun from imagining them as a group of fathers of teenage children. Which has led me to ponder which of them the fourteen year old me would have been most mortified to be picked up from school by. My own father almost never picked me up from school, since he was usually in another country, and didn't live with us anyway. Thank god. I can barely imagine the amount of horror struck eye rolling I would have had to put on, what with him having a BEARD. And a beer belly. And .. uuugh ... oh, just EVERYTHING. Sigh. Eyeroll. I don't know why this is tickling me so much. I think I'm having a slightly teenage phase at the moment. Lashes certainly is. Everything I say is greeted with the eyeroll and "c'est pas drôleeeeuh"


So. Question: which would be the worst school run dad?

Is it:

1. Super Crazy

I imagine he would be full of 'hilarious' pranks to play on all your mates. OH THE HORROR. Let the jaws of the earth swallow you up rather than watch him.

2. Triple H

He looks kind of stern. I think he would want to see your homework diary the minute you stepped into the car. And I hope you haven't sneaked any make up in your school bag and put it on in the loos, or rolled your waistband round five times to make your school skirt shorter, because he would freak. "GOD. This is SO UNFAIR. I HATE YOU".



3. The Mouth of the South Jimmy Hart

Can you just hear him singing along to Country & Western standards with the window rolled down? Can you imagine stalking over to him with a million yard death stare, dying inside a little bit more every second? Because I can.




4. John Morrison

The dad your mates fancy. OH MY GOD YOU DON'T I CAN'T BELIEVE YOU SAID THAT I'M GOING TO BE SICK UUUUUURGH I HATE YOU.




5. Hornswoggle


"DAD why can't you just wear normal clothes? You look like a DICK. Uuuuurgh".


Your views in the comments please. Worst dad, and why.

Friday, 8 May 2009

Voices

Remind me tomorrow if I forget that I REALLY need to tell you about the school display cabinet with Pamela Anderson's floats in. But! For today, it's Prog Rock weekend! Also, I have miscalculated the date of his arrival by a day, not that it matters. It is so wonderful to see him. We laugh all night about my disgusting, repulsive domestic habits. The CFO looks on wearily, stroking the weepette. Later I will update his reading list, which is about 80000 books behind on his usual consumption rates.


As ever, Prog Rock comes bearing gifts.

For the CFO, a CD of the most eardrum torturing modern jazz. It makes me feel nauseous after about 10 seconds. The CFO loves it.



For Lashes, a fart whistle and a kit to build a small meccano style motorbike. Lashes decides to make a robot from it and spends the rest of the evening rapt.



For Fingers, an alien in an egg.



For me, two bags of self-raising flour, a Bettys cake, Heat, Grazia and Easy Living. But most precious, a memory stick with two ancient recordings on it - me aged 2 talking to my mum, and the same for the Space Cadette.



I listened to them this morning with a little trepidation. I wasn't sure if it might be sad, but it's not, really. It's sweet and funny and strange. I have a Yorkshire accent - not sure where that went - and she sounds WAY more Scottish than I remember, and a little Joyce Grenfell. Odd. Touching.


The Crazed Fantasist

M: So was baby Dean at Joanies today?

E: Yes

M: And what did he do?

E: Kicking

M: Anything else?

E: WAAAAAAAAAA

M: What did Joanie do when he went waa waa?

E: Smacked him

M: Never! What did he have for his lunch?

E: Vitamin C

M: Are you sure? Is that all? Did Dean have anything else but vitamin C for his lunch?

E: Medicine

M: Not a bottle of milk?

E: No, medicine and vitamin C.



Also this:


Plus ça change

M: And what did the three bears have for breakfast?

E: Pudding

....

M: What did you like best at Granny's?

E: Chocolate



And this one:


If only I had I'd be a damn millionaire

M: So what job are you going to do when you grow up?

E: I'm going to be a plumber.

M: Are you sure? Last week you said you wanted to be a farmer.

E: No, I want to be an engine driver this week


Apart from that, you will be unsurprised to hear we mainly discuss Jammy Dodgers, cake, and chocolate buttons. A shell I have apparently stolen from one of her friends; the topic treated very delicately by my mum ("I spoke to Julia and told her that Emma is very sorry but she seems to have taken her shell by mistake"). And at one point there's a really sweet exchange where I say, graciously, "I like you, Mummy" and she says "I like you too Emma". It was rather lovely. My sister is mainly preoccupied with singing about Little Lord Jesus. I'm not sure quite what happened to that, but then she did go to the crazy speaking in tongues Christian camp with her cousins one year, I suppose.


There was one very peculiar moment, when I had opened another window to write an email with the audio file on in the background and was only half listening, when my mum's voice said "Emma?" in a questioning tone and it was absolutely like she was in the room trying to get my attention. I think I'd listen to it again and again, just for that moment.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Parenting is hard, and being seven is even harder

Clearly, since it has been several weeks since we last graced their doors, it must be time for a trip to the local Casualty department, and Lashes sweetly obliges with a gash to the head. I get a call from the gulag in which the school secretary explains to me that while he is Absolutely Fine, I must take my son to hospital. Just To Be Sure. Sure of what? Sure that there is a hole in his head?

I rush down the street and find him wanly standing in the corridor next to a fearsome blonde woman holding a bucket and bloody sponge who again assures me he is Absolutely Fine. He has a giant, ridiculous bandage around his head and he looks all wan and bedraggled. Dirty tearful smudges around his eyes. Poor Lashes. For some reason he has got a rotten combination of the varous elements of our genetic make up that make the CFO break his limbs and me bash into things constantly. Fingers falls over all the time too, but when Lashes does it he breaks. There was the time the CFO dislocated his elbow playing aeroplanes. The time he got a seesaw in the chin. The World's Nastiest Blister requiring antibiotics. The mumps even though he was vaccinated. Croup in the middle of the night, requiring a mercy dash to Whitechapel casualty department, which turned out to be in the throes of an interesting vomiting outbreak. Even as a baby, there was the Crazy Sudden Appearing Rash, that needed blood tests.

"C'est pas mon jour de chance" he says sadly as I crouch down next to him and kiss his grubby cheek. His giant eyes are mournful and uncomprehending. He's right - it hasn't been his week really. Every day when I have collected him some minor tragedy has left him tear streaked and wan. Fingers is a tough egg. When I see him in the playground he's either uproariously playing with a gang of other tough eggs or pursuing some singleminded project of his own devising. Lashes isn't. He's not always on his own, but he might be drawing in a corner, or very cautiously sitting on the bottom rung of the climbing frame. He has this diffident, downcast way of walking towards me across the playground. That he loses and breaks things all the time wouldn't bother me, but it makes him so sad when it happens.

I gather him up, bloodstained coat, and tissues and insurance document to be filled in at the hospital Just To Be Sure, and we head off to casualty.

Here, let me just add a parenthesis about the wondrous nature of Belgian casualty departments. So swift! So kind. So empty of raving lunatics with cans of Tennants Extra. The nurses are kind and efficient. Within 5 seconds of arrival Lashes is whisked away into the paediatriac triage room (British people, try and contain your sobs), assessed as needing two stitches (shit, I shouldn't have told him I didn't think he would need any. In Belgium you ALWAYS need stitches), given anasthetic gel and sent away for 45 minutes until it takes effect.

We repair to the café/gift shop which is a thing of beauty and a joy forever, with Pierre Marcolini chocolates, fresh smoothies, a selection of international magazines and delicious food that is actually better than you get in Pain Quotidien. There is a giant trainset built in under a glass floor that you can operate with buttons on the wall and they can even make cappucinos without squirty cream on top. Through the tears and the pain, Lashes senses an opportunity and makes me agree to buy him a build your own robot T Rex. He wanly eats a ham sandwich and drinks a smoothie and we admire the wrestling cards of ridiculous men in spandex knickers I have also bought him to make me feel better.

"Ok, we'd better be heading back"

"What?"

"The gel will be working by now, they can put your stitches in"

"WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA NOOOOOOOOOOO NOT STITCHES"

"What? But you knew! The nurse told you"

"Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo"

And so on all the way back to Casualty where a cheery goblin of a doctor pep talks Lashes into lying face down, wailing all the while. The paper that covers the bed is soon a mass of snot and tears and blood. I stand at the other side, whispering promises of Pokémons and ice cream and dancing karate lizards. After a few more minutes writhing and wailing, it's done, with warnings not to let the dog lick his stitches, or his mates poke at them. The wailing slows to the occasional tremulous sniff. I hand over a Kinder Egg and we are free.

In the ultimate act of parental betrayal, I make him go back to school afterwards. We are received by the hags in the staff room who take the certificate, one of them saying he should be more careful on benches in the future. Eh? You should be more careful around my index finger lady, or I'll be sticking it in your eye. I deliver him to the yard and watch him amble off with a small convoy of ambulance chasers. His receding back makes me want to cry a bit, but I don't.

Now I need a stiff drink.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Executive summary

Today summarised (briefly. the children are behaving like the hounds of hell)

Reading:
Their Finest Hour and a Half (lent by Mrs Trefusis). Just finished. Very fine. Recommended.

Eating:
Crap. Still. No lunch but I found a Grany (!) biscuit covered in dog hair found on back seat of car and ate that. It was horrible.

Wearing:
Dirty but flattering Balenciaga Brick Lane off back of a lorry black trousers. Pierre Hardy for Gap black flats, soon to be regrefully consigned to the bin with their red companions. Ella Moss black jumper with a frill and a looooow neckline. Used to look great when I weighed as much as ten year old. Now gives outrageous, disgusting, obscene cleavage. Which comes in handy, see 'Doing' below. Fatima liked it. This is the only time she's ever commented on anything I've ever worn. I am keeping well out of Damien's way.

Doing:
Driving all day, backwards and forwards in infernal loops around Brussels (to the handwriting lady, to infant kickbox (horribly funny. ANYTHING GOES. They were sticking fingers in each others' eyes and everything), to 'bricolage', to the shops) . Gah, the traffic, the idiots, me being an idiot. The traffic again.

Trying to park. Crying. Parking in front of garage doors. Flashing chest in the hope of not getting screamed at. Getting told 'T'ennerve pas' (calm down) by an eye rolling 7 year old.

Walking round Delhaize in a mildly erotic reverie. Mmm! Food, I remember you. Buying food to sacrifice to the fridge gods.

Procrastinating. Emailing. Thinking bad thoughts. Grinding my teeth.

Ear worming:

Ting Tings - Traffic Light. This is my version of synesthaesia. Weirdly appropriate songs appear, unbidden in my head. I especially appreciated the line "Let's not have a breakdown" in this earworm. Yes. Wouldn't that be nice. Unfortunately Ting Tings, IT'S WEDNESDAY. Wednesday and I have history.
The Space Cadette has proper synesthaesia, have I ever mentioned that? I'll have to get her to remind me about it. It always makes me laugh with delight. I remember Fingers is sort of orangey yellow and red.

Saying:

JESUS! Seriously I mean it. If I hear you shouting at each other ONCE AGAIN I am taking the Wii and putting it in the bin.


Join in. Add your own category if you like. I have about a tenth of a brain cell today, this is bargain basement blogging at its cheapest and nastiest.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Weeds from my Belgian garden

Snippets only today. We can call it the Belgian Waffle caveman diet, where you must make do with what snippets you can forage whilst waiting for me to bring home a gigantic mammoth. I really have no idea where I thought I was going with that analogy, but I think we can conclude, nowhere good.


1. I have lost two tortoises.

They are out in the back garden somewhere, for sure, but where? Since Fingers helpfully watered the garden into a swirling maelstrom of dogshit and earth and crushed greenery and stolen socks (damned weepette), I am even less inclined to ferret around in there with my bare hands in search of well-camouflaged tortoises than usual. What to do? At times like this I wish we had gone through with the CFO's initial idea of putting a Jack Bauer style tracking device on their shells, or, more low-tech but also effective, putting a 50c coin on their shells and using Lashes' metal detector to locate them. It is raining. They will be in semi-hibernation, and when, or if, I ever find them, they will look like this again:





Stupid fuckers. I rather love this photo. I love the obstinate way the tortoise continues to sleep even after I have unearthed it and carried it inside and taken its photo, laughing manically. And the filthy, filthy little legs. I feel a sort of kinship.



2. I am going to London

In normal circumstances I would be dancing a joyful techtonik air around the room about this, twirling my arms in stupidly solemn and hilarious ways and singing warbly songs about bagels and Liberty. But I am going because they are cutting a fuck off big hole in my brother's head for another biopsy, so instead insistent darts of fear keep shooting through me. Not for the operation itself, but for all that the next few months, possibly years, will hold. It's unthinkable. But I am going over doing what prog rock says humans must do at times like this, and "huddling". I will play with my niece and nephew and hopelessly hug people and make tea and maybe stew (shitty, awful stew that looks like credit crunch soup and makes them all cry). It's useless but it's better than being useless from afar.

I do have a firm date with The Internet's Most Glamorous (Mrs Trefusis, Liberty London Girl, Mothership, and India) while I am over there and am hopelessly applying streaky orange fake tan in preparation. I found the body brush behind the desk in the hall; it looked like Oscar might have been chewing it, so I am giving that a miss. I am still trying to find my Vanessa Bruno dress which was last seen hanging on the door in the cellar for reasons that remain obscure. Life FAIL. Sartorial FAIL. Tan FAIL.

3. Interviewing: another skill I do not have

I have interviewed six people in the last week. It's tragic. If they are good I just make happy, stupid faces at them and forget to ask any questions but instead tell them about how bad I am at my job. If they are bad, I want to put them out of their misery, maybe with a cushion applied gently to their face, my own face or both of us. Just to Make It Stop. Since that isn't allowed, I believe, I answer all the questions for them.

"So, do you have any experience in a legal environment? No, you don't, do you but I am sure your stamp collecting will be a great help in having the necessary administrative skills. Who needs law anyway? Ha ha!"

Ghastly. I know I should not fear the silence, but I do. I never want to do this again. I will just say yes to stamp collecting guy to make it all stop if necessary.

4. $1 million? We can manage that can't we?

Did you know that for $1 million the Chinese government will rent you a panda? I paraphrase slightly, but I am sure if we were to go to them with the money and a reasoned proposal for sharing the panda between us, they would be amenable. We could totally look after it. I mean, how hard can it be? A nice big blanket, a tree and lots of bamboo. Easy. The deadly M sent me this article. I think she spends her days and nights looking up 'animals to explode Emma's head' on google. I also loved the phrase:

"Baby pandas in the nursery must be frequently handled and rolled from side to side, like bread dough; otherwise their intestines can become flattened or distorted".

Surely, SURELY that must be the best job in the universe? I challenge you to think of a better one.

Monday, 4 May 2009

In which I discuss baldness (as requested)

The people have requested more information on hairlessness. I am a people pleaser, so hairlessness it is. Also, it means I do not have to think too hard about what I am writing today, which is clearly a good thing, what with having a day job and all. I am blogging whilst giving an induction on the ways of Ennui to our new slave. Poor poor slave. Thus far, between we have mustered the following gems:

1. If you have a run in with the Belgian police be really nice to them as they will probably hit you (C)

2. The tram has priority over EVERYTHING. That gling gling noise? That's the last thing you hear before 500 tonnes of gaudy yellow metal crush you to death. (Me)

3. Never go to a Belgian supermarket on Monday. If you really have to, bring a book (Me)

4. Dutch tv is good because of the subtitles (C)

5. Di is a bit like Boots. But nowhere near as good. Boots. Sob. (Me)

We have pretty much covered everything, and are reduced to staring at her blankly. It's time to blog.

Ok, hairlessness recap. I have alopecia universalis. At the age of twenty all my hair fell out over the course of three weeks. Every morning we would wake up to find the bed coated in a thick carpet of hair. I remember being quite bemused by the whole thing initially, and then having to wear a baseball cap to cover the bald spots, and seeing the absolute terror in my mum's eyes when we met up with her in Paris and she saw how bad it was. Later than summer I shaved the rest off. I think I was in shock as I barely remember how I dealt with it practically. Did I wear a hat all the time? A scarf? A little of both perhaps. Some time later that summer I bought an auburn shoulder length wig, because getting one that looked like my real hair, but pouffy and nylon and cheap was just too painful. I remember walking down Kensington Church Street with a bare head, trying it out, and having to turn round and go home after only a couple of minutes. I just couldn't face it. John, my hairdresser, is always asking my why I don't just go bare. "You have a nice head!" he says "Fuck them!" The truth is, I can't stand the attention.

I went to see posh incompetent dermatologist, who was very interested in getting rid of thread veins on the back of my hand, but had only steroids and trycyclic anti-depressants to offer. I took steroids and tricyclic antidepressants. Lots of steroids, for nearly two years. They made me fat and puffy and miserable, but the hair didn't come back. In fact, more fell out. I lost my eyebrows and eyelashes, and all the hair on my body. The posh incompetent dermatologist gave me horribly painful injections which made my eyebrows grow back for about a week. Then they fell out again. He sent me to a troll-like psychiatrist who told me I must have had deep-seated trauma when I was 8 (when I first lost a patch of hair). I couldn't think of any.

At some point, ever so gradually, I lost the assumption, then the belief, then the hope, that my hair would grow back. I didn't lose it quickly. I clearly remember not wanting to get married, because I couldn't imagine getting married in a wig. I didn't want to have a baby, and have photos of me in a wig. But soon enough, I invested in wigs that didn't make me want to kill myself, that made me feel a little more like me again. It was hard, doing that. It felt like an admission that this was permanent. But it was worth it too. And I went to Sophie, who gave me part of my face back. I love Sophie. Want eyebrows? Go to Sophie. Accept no substitutes. I am still desperately looking for something to give me my eyelashes back. If you've heard of anything, tell me.

Practicalities? I barely notice any more. I LOVE not having to shave, or wax or any of that business. I like my spookily smooth legs and underarms. I will never have a moustache. My "hair" looks better than my real hair ever used to, and I don't think people could guess. Yes, you will all think it obvious, I expect, if you meet me, but it's because you know already. What I think looks odd is the lack of those little fine hairs around the temples, where your hairline starts. It's too clean. I wear my wig all the time during the day, but my kids see me without it. I've shown my niece too (after her dad's chemo) but noone else. I feel vulnerable with no hair, like a sea creature without its shell. I get terribly cold in bed in the winter (and even now) and have to wear a hoodie or hat in bed and yes, it itches in the summer, and sometimes I just lift it up and have a scratch. People are endlessly unobservant, thankfully. I haven't noticed any ill effects of no nose hair, but I had to give up contact lenses because of the irritation having no eyelashes causes. That was a real blow. If I have to wear a swimming cap, well, I would go for one of those fabric ones. They're all the rage here. Though I must say, if I go somewhere I have to wear a swimming cap, the chances are, I will make up any old story not to get into the freezing verruca stew.

Feelings? I hate my eyes without eyelashes. I hate my pink, lashless lids. They look like raw meat and no combination of make up I have tried can mimic eyelashes. I would do anything to avoid that look. I tried falsies once, but they looked ridiculous without any real eyelashes to nestle into. The rest I'm pretty much at ease with, I think. About once every couple of months I dream that my hair grows back, but I don't rail against my bad luck. Would I prefer to have hair? Certainly. Am I distressed by my condition daily? No. Not at all. Sometimes it makes me more restless than others, and now is one of those times. I am wondering whether to go and see another dermatologist to see if they have any cunning eyelash plans. But unhappy? No. I mean, seriously. I'm not the one with the brain tumour am I?

Um. I just reread this post, and it would appear I have nothing to add to my position on alopecia since last year. Sorry. BUT YOU ASKED, INTERNET. (Both of you).

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Why I should never be allowed to talk to pregnant women

For much of this weekend I have been sustained by the thought of a post I have been planning in my head about my gigantic nostrils, and how they grew repulsively over the course of my first pregnancy, until, after labour, they were unrecogniseably vast. I remember calling the CFO into the bedroom to show him my gigantic flaring nostrils. It would have been about three days after Lashes was born and I was completely off my head crazy. Some stupid, irresponsible person had allowed me to leave the hospital with a LIVE HUMAN BABY. Huh? No instructions. Nothing. Everytime I looked round, there it was. Still there. Sometime it cried but it was even more terrifying when it didn't. I used to hover watchfully above its tiny nest, feeling like vomiting with terror at the thought that shortly it would wake up and NEED SOMETHING. Something mysterious. And that helpful evolutionary mechanism whereby you are hyper vigilant at all hours of the day or night had kicked in. So there I was, wide eyed, sleepless, constantly on the look out for prowling sabre toothed tigers, unable to eat.


"MY NOSTRILS!" I shrieked at him, clawing at his pyjamas (dressing was beyond us). "Look!"


He hadn't slept much either.


"What? What's wrong? Are you ill? Do you have an infection is something wrong with the baby are you bleeding please take the drugs take the drugs take the drugs" he mumbled, slipping back into another labour flashback.



"They're HUGE! They've GROWN! Noone tells you this about labour. It's all about the tearing and bleeding and pain. Noone tells you anything about increased nostril size! Also.." here my voice dropped to a manic hiss "That BABY is still here!"


I can't remember how the conversation finished, but I feel confident I was probably crying and the CFO was probably thinking wistfully about one way flights to Mexico. The HUMAN BABY was still there, I know that.




Today, the human baby turned seven. They haven't come to reclaim him yet, and they better not bloody try because he's deliciously strokeable now and not nearly as terrifying as he used to be. I can send him to the corner shop for biscuits to avoid the attentions of Damien and he consoles me when I have a particularly dire parking day.




Happy birthday darling.




Ok, photo time.



1. Human baby and its cake. Yes. It's dirty, and it might very well be drunk. I don't know. I have barely seen it for three days. Cousins are very magical things.




That shadow? Oh, it's probably my nostrils.



2. Cake and cake model. YES. I made Ragigigas. I am the fucking EMPRESS OF POKEMON.


You remember the drill with my cakes. Whatever you do DO NOT ENLARGE THIS IMAGE.







This one comes with a health warning. Do not scroll down if you are pregnant or planning to have a child shortly and you value your nostrils. Neat, human sized nostrils.



Also, vanity and desire to entertain have been fighting this out in my head all evening.

I think you'll be able to tell which won. (No, don't enlarge this one either).




I am sick in the head putting this photo up, aren't I? Oh well.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Despatches from Nowhere

I got lost in Arc sur Tille tonight. I was trying to find my way back from the Super U, a sort of giganto-Spar where I had been buying a demographic busting selection of sparklers, loo roll, condoms (yes, I am attempting a more responsible approach to contraceptive issues) and a bubble blowing machine. I keep trying to escape in small ways, and since I finished all 600 pages of American Wife on Friday, I have had to get more and more creative. I have tried: lying face down in the grass, using a dirty mug for tea (causing a hyperventilating breakdown from OCD), trying to write longhand blogposts and assorted words, and classifying mountains of Pokémon cards by prettiness. I have had exhausting dreams about cleaning up poo all over Chateau C'If (thank you, Mrs Trefusis) Super U was the last in a long line. Also, Sister in Law (we're not married, the CFO and I, but what else would I call her? The Disapproving One?) does not like feeding us much and we have been eating the heel of pâté the charcutier gave them for free on Thursday all weekend. And biscottes. God, why do biscottes exist? If there is a nuclear apocalypse making bread an impossibility I think my face melting off might be nicer than eating biscottes. Actually, Sister in Law gives every indication of not liking us at ALL, but I think that's more to do with the set of her facial features than real dislike. Though of course, we are disgustingly dirty, and I have several times forgotten to change slippers going upstairs.

Anyway, I left the Super U relatively confident of the basic direction I needed to head in, but after what I thought was a cunning, but in fact was a disastrous 'short cut', I ended up lost in street after street of identical pavillons. Arc sur Tille looks like nothing so much as a warmer version of Cumbernauld, where swathes of my family live. Though, thankfully, with fewer members of my family. I walked up and down peering into front yards with identical swing and slide sets. Occasionally, for variety, I would end up in front of a squat concrete public building of some sort. Haven't I seen that before? No, this time it's the town hall. Last time it was the gendarmerie. After about half an hour I thought I might just sit down and cry, or curl up in a field and go to sleep. Or maybe go and knock on someone else's door. The food might be better; I have no idea what cruel fate meant I have ended up aligned with one of the few French families who consider food essentially an irritating interruption in lengthy discussions about the neighbour's car and which cousin has put on weight.

In the end I found my way back after a couple of wrong turns around the bakery and attracting and then getting rid of a gang of bored youths on bikes who had left their post in the bus stop to stare at me. As an aside, the CFO and I laughed ourselves sick at the bus stop graffiti "Punk et Skin, c'est trop chouette" (a bit like saying "Punk and skins are really super"). Their disaffected youth are so POLITE. It must be all the hand sanitiser they're sniffing.

I have to go. It's time for Apéro (with no crisps, and blue Pastis). Normal service resumes tomorrow. Thank FUCK.