Sunday, 29 November 2009

One finger epic

Ok here goes nothing, my first one finger iPhone epic. I can't imagine it will be up to much, but I'm getting twitchy.

I'm perching on the windowsill of the SP, where occasional crumbs of connectivity flutter by cruelly. The dog is dozing somewhere wholly illegal, Lashes is holed up with his mate Swearing Boy , the rudest child in Uccle (and thus my favourite friend) and Fingers and I have made an alarming pink Madeira cake (I've just tasted it speculatively. It's vile). It's stiflingly, delightfully warm in a way I am shamefully loving. Sole control of the central heating is a dangerous thing, for me. It's all ok, really. I'm alternately gleeful and filled with dread at everything. I have realised that I can't allow myself to think too much, or too far ahead or I get blurred vision and night sweats. Actually, I get those anyway, what with the environment flaying heating levels and the dead weight of weepette across my head.

If we were to inventory this week, it would go broadly as follows:

Things made/fixed/generally sujugated: 1 meccano robot (a bigger high, building that, than childbirth). 1 mop (surprisingly hard), the iPhone. Sort of. Shut up, wafflechild. Shhhh M.

Stuff that comprehensively kicked my ass:,1 Lego car. Total, near weeping defeat and stage left commentary along the lines of "Papa would have done in TWO SECONDS". Alarm clocks (2, one fixed by a 5 year old, the other totally fucked). Various others, now forgotten/stamped on.

Guilt soft toys purchased: 4

Best discovery: Panique au Village. I can't do links right now. I can barely scroll. But this is an animated series using small farmyard and cowboy/Indian figurines, and it is magnificently dark and surreal and represents all I love about Belgium. The cowboy and Indian are mysteriously looked after by a horse that talks like a Belgian Les Dawson, if you can imagine such a thing. Mainly he kicks them through Walls. I'll try and find a clip tomorrow. UPDATED: here! Brilliance

Crappest moment: losing wallet and spending several hours in the police station being treated like the moron I truly am. "You 'think' there was a Visa card. Hmmm? Madame?". Closely followed by several dark night of the soul moments regarding The Future. Then I developed my patented ostrich approach and everything was suddenly much easier? 'Dinner? But that's HOURS away. Let's not worry about it, hmm?"

Five a day targets met: 0. But at least one day there was one of those 'apple' things. Peculiar little blighters. Singularly lacking in caramel filling.

Profound birthday thoughts: None. Except: OWL OH MY GOD OWL OWL. And how extraordinarily fortunate I am to have such wonderful people both inside the computer and out looking after me at this most tricky of times. So thank you.

I'd say more but elder spawn has just bitten younger, fracturing the domestic idyll. And I can't feel my index finger. Aie!

Friday, 27 November 2009

OMG Owl in a box redux

Ok, between the flailing, whining, stomping and the kicking of old ladies, not to mention the agonisingly prolonged trip to the police station (because I find that the best way to celebrate your birthday is to lose your wallet), I was unable to post yesterday or this morning, and now have epically little time to update you on the various fascinating goings-on Chez Waffle.


I do, however, have a very clear sense of priorities, and thus the most important thing I can possibly offer you today, above all words I might be able to spew forth from my newly addled 35 year old brain, is THIS. THIS, the best birthday present in the world ever, world without end, amen.

Brace yourselves for a tidal wave of jealousy.


























Can you BELIEVE what my brain twin did for me? Well, can you? Thank you M.



I will try and do another quick post with some Salmon palace photo reportage. Possibly. If your retinas can stand it.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Minor observations on my new house

1. I would rather get down on my hands and knees and pick up each individual mote of dust than use a hoover. I fear the hoover. Even the dustpan is preferable to the hoover. (That, incidentally, could be my version of "The pen is mightier than the sword", couldn't it). Which is good, since I haven't bought a hoover yet. Does a hoover exist that I won't be terrified of? Can I really bring myself to spend money on one? Tune in for the next thrilling installment, possibly in mid 2010.

2. The downstairs loo obviously contains the rotting corpse of a durian fruit, family of skunks, or similar. I have poured several bottles of various household poisons down there to no avail. Something has died in there and it seems to be something bigger and nastier than me. I am just deciding to never open the door again. If you ever visit, do not go there. Do not even ask what happens behind that door. It's my "something nasty in the woodshed" room.

3. The washing machine claims it has "E14" and will not go past the first minute of any given cycle. I am contemplating the following solutions:

- Maybe take out that filtery bit at the bottom and shake it around.

- Fiddle around with the tap thing in the cupboard in case the water isn't on (long shot).

- Sitting on the floor and crying (almost certain).

- Kicking it.

- Going to the launderette.

I will take other suggestions.

4. Having emptied only the kitchen boxes, I have no compulsion to ever look at, or touch any of the other ones. Fuck it. There is a gigantic empty box that I am thinking of turning into a feature. It is too large to crush, and the perfect size for sitting in after a particularly self-pitying day. Alternatively, I could fill it with owls.

5. I have a ladder with a name. The ladder is called Iris. I know this because it is carved into her ancient wood. Iris is 5 metres high. I am slightly in love with her, but also a little scared. She is awe-inspiring, but also rather rickety. I like climbing ladders though, so I am fine with it. She brings a little frisson into my life. It's carrying her around that causes problems - I have caused several hideous dents in the salmon paintwork.

6. Belgacom remain useless, feckless, pointless bastards (that's two Cold Comfort references in one post, I realise. It's that kind of day. Wet, muddy). Without the interwebs at my disposal I note:

- the house is cleaner;

- I am cooking meals, some of them even involving CHOPPING STUFF. I chopped an onion yesterday, an activity I haven't indulged in for, oooh, probably a good year. It was crap, but it tasted good. This is a dangerous departure.

- I am watching far too much hospital drama.

I am not sure what to make of this.

7. I am getting salmon Stockholm syndrome. It's still hideous but I feel oddly protective of it. I wonder if it gives me a dewy glow, Mariah Carey styley?

8. I have a pathetic girlie compulsion to have lots of fairy lights and quilts. I know it's wrong, beyond the pale and terribly 1998. But, well, you know. This is my first sole residence in 15 years. It is little wonder that my interior decoration desires are a little dated. I'm surprised I haven't moved into an empty loft with only a clothes rail and a load of Smiths posters and black and white photography.

9. Although the basic flatpack and Allen key now hold no fear for me, I continue to be foxed by the mysterious workings of the ratchet screwdriver. What? How? It's entirely beyond me. Probably no point in trying to explain. I think I'm just missing that part of my brain.

10. I really, really, really like it. So that's good.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

The Eeyore Birthday Primer

I love birthdays. I love MY birthday, love how it always keeps me going through the grim, dark days of November before you can legitimately get excited about Christmas (yes, that too, so excited that I exhaust myself by around 7am and fall into a decline). If anything, I tend to give birthdays vastly exaggerated importance and want every one to be perfect. Birthdays demand the day off, afternoon tea, presents in bed. Even when my 29th birthday fell just a month after mum died, I celebrated with peculiar cakes and giggling at the waitresses gigantic pens and leg of mutton sleeves in Sketch tea room with Violet and my sister. It was defiantly celebratory.


On my own, though, I can't stamp my foot and make everyone run after me, lighting candles and bringing me Kir Royale and baby cashmere goats (I read recently about a special cashmere blanket made only from the very first belly hair grooming of the tiniest baby goats, and it's become something of an idée fixe). The sound of my stamping heel will only send the weepette scuttling in terror from its clandestine spot on the Ektorp. The children won't notice at all, too busy inventing a birthday for Oscar complete with a reconstituted pig made from pet shop dessicated body parts. I will have to deal with my own birthday. I have been planning a realistic version of my ideal. Best be prepared, I think.


Ideal



Woken after a long lie in with tea on a tray and a pile of cards and presents and flowers and possibly small exotic animals for petting.



Real


Woken at 6 am by weepette whining insistently two millimetres from my face; take weepette out, probably in picturesque Belgian rain. Take children to school. Decide not to remind them about birthday until later, since we will inevitably be running late. Go back to bed at 9 with a cup of tea and a book. Sulk gently at lack of thrills, surprises, lavishness.




Ideal


Long bath, take calls from myriad admirers, take delivery of more baby animals and bouquets. Bettys ring because the giant fondant fancy pyramid is too big to fit through letter box.



Real

Take call from Prog Rock. Have short bath - as usual, too twitchy to settle - in curtainless bathroom, terrifying Catholics with decaying, ravaged face and body. Avert gaze from decaying, ravaged face and body. Lurk around in hope of postman. Give up and go out.




Ideal

Lunch at the Sea Grill, where your handbag gets its own stool, and when they see you tipping plates of petits fours in there, they bring you MORE. Boxed up for ease of transport. Tipsy post-lunch luxury goods shopping. Nap.



Real

Go to McDonalds and steal wifi to try and leach BIRTHDAY LOVE out of the internet. Try to buy stuff on the internet "because it's my birthday". Thwarted by crappy Belgian credit limit. Have cake for lunch. Come home to find letter from HSBC and three fliers for kebab shops in post. Nap.



Ideal


Have cake and candles and more presents. Drink champagne. Play with presents. Take surprise delivery of everyone I love. With even more presents. Go out for cocktails. Even the cocktails come with presents.



Real
Eat entire sponge cake, probably made by me. Break tooth on silver balls. Cry resentfully for no good reason. Watch House in bed with bottle of Bombay Sapphire under pillow. Fall asleep to soothing sensation of weepette licking icing off my face.



What do you think? Any ideas for how to be any more pathetic and self-indulgent? I'd drunkenly text my exes, but I don't really have any, so you'll have to be a bit more creative.

Photo nonsense

This is just to say that I haven't had access to gmail for several days, so if you have written and I haven't replied, it's not deliberate rudeness. I will prevail, eventually. After all, I am the holder of the COMPETENCE TROPHY:




(This is the instruction manual for my decrepit oven; too hilarious. I insisted the wafflechild take a picture, as it's undoubtedly the only Competence Trophy I'll ever get)

Here, since we're having a photo, have some bonus strawberry Mannekin Pisses. If that's the plural of Mannekin Pis. Ugh.





They had pissing children in every flavour you can imagine.

Proper post later, honest.

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Concourse despatch

In further tales of limited connectivity, I am in St Pancras. The wafflechild has just left me with many imprecations not to lose any more vital things or get lost and only just stopping short of writing my name and his phone number on my forehead in magic marker. He's not wrong. I have been horribly, pathetically chaotic in the last couple of days. Useless. I suppose the enforced competence of moving house is starting to dissipate and my brain is reacting by returning to its usual sluglike consistency. Also, we did have quite a lot to drink and danced to the drag queen beat at Chez Maman until my stomach ached from laughing.

Ah, Chez Maman. It is the size on an average bathroom and entirely black. Maman and the girls descend down a rickety precarious staircase to riotous applause and lip synch from the top of the bar to Shirley Bassey and The Gossip. Maman is seriously burly. "I would recognise those calves anywhere" said Wafflechild as she sashayed down the ladder for her second number. A wild eyed Irish man told us that I was like Joan Collins and he was Doris Day. We had huge fun. I fell into a coma on the Ektorp at 3 and woke up with a face full of dribble and an eye stuck shut with caked eyeliner. Marvellous. I would go back in a heartbeat, especially now that we know the secret code to get back out. Especially for that.

Tonight is Pochyemu's legendary TWITTER PARTY. to put faces to many many pseudonyms and tiny avatars. I can't wait. What with the gin, and the drag queen sweat, and the bar full of chain smoking (and stroking) beautiful small men, I am wearing a very special scent for the evening, named for the occasion by Lucy Fishwife as "Eau de Slutte Hors Taxe". It's packed full of alluring amnesia, lost keys and money and pathetically dissolute waffleness. I have malnutrition spots from my diet of cookies and melted cheese and some kind of carbuncle in the corner of my eye that might be sequin burn. I hope it is very very dark. I will report back as fully as my ailing brain will allow, but now I have to seize the moment and run off to Anthropologie. For as many house style trinkets as I can stuff into my capacious handbag.

Hurrah! London!

Friday, 20 November 2009

Moving, Moving, Moved

I am in the FNAC, temple of all things audiovisual. They do not, contrary to Belgacom's lies, have a Wifi network. I have no idea whose wifi I am stealing, but it works occasionally. I am rapidly losing my sense of humour about this whole connectivity thing. Dull. How are you internet? I miss you. It's lonely here in 1983 without you. Wafflechild keeps getting his iphone out and staring at it folornly, telling me all the magical things it could do if we weren't, well, in Belgium.

Apart from that, sweet baby Nathan but the last 24 hours have been EFFICIENT. My gay adoptive son is like a home furnishing whirlwind, braving not only Belgian public transport, but also my driving and Belgian Ikea (where we both incurred paper cuts deep enough to require several stitches and bled all over the collection area before staunching the flow with a 65 cent hot dog, famous for their antiseptic properties) and THEN building flat pack after flat pack in a whirl of ratchet screwdrivers and Allen keys. He is AMAZING. A techno/practico/brico genius. Clearly his days of slavery in the cruel art factory he used to occupy were not wasted. My rôle has been to stand back, open mouthed and admire. It has been bloody brilliant, I can't imagine how I could ever repay him, having no skills in any domestic departments whatsoever. Maybe some mean biscuits? And of course a trip to Chez Maman's transvestite cabaret tonight. If I ever let him out of flat pack hell. Hmmm. I am tempted to just keep him. He is unbelievably useful, a bit like a home help for the elderly and permanently confused, he has got my heating working, showed me how to work my Mac, set the time on my stereo and remembered several times where I put my keys.

The Salmon Palace is starting to look like a real home, albeit one situated deep in a Marks and Spencer smoked salmon mousse. The move was extraordinarily, even brutally, fast. I only flinched a couple of thousand times as the three village idiots tossed stuff around cavalierly. We were finished before the Wafflechild had even found his way out of the Gare du Midi (much harder than it sounds, actually) leaving more time for hardcore flat pack action (if that phrase doesn't occur in my keywords, I will be extremely disappointed). The table has been a total revelation, allowing us to sit and drink tea whilst we mock the crack three man fence building team, particularly the taciturn Boris and his chainsaw happy, dog baiting, one handed press up performing awesomeness. I have a Romanian orphan tv table thing liberated from Ikea's Bargain Corner, a kitchen bench type thing, curtains... None of it would have been even remotely imaginable without Mr Houser. I would just be sitting in a nest of cardboard boxes eating biscuits and whining. He is truly a boy wonder. He should be canonised Saint Thomas of Uccle. Truly.

In other news - and truly, I promise, normal service will eventually be resumed on these pages, rather than feeble despatches from the outer limits of the 1980s - Brussels is entirely filled with drunken students at the moment. I should probably know what it's all about but the whole of the lower town is sticky with spilled beer, piss and vomit, and lorries full of peculiar people in decorated labcoats with beer mugs tied round their necks are staggering around showing me their genitals. Peculiar, but entertaining. Anyone know what it is?

I have to go. But before I do, let me edify you with the news that a BELGIAN, our Prime Minister "Herman Von Rompuy" (an assumed name if ever I heard one) has now been elected King and Lord High Emperor of Europe. He gets to have a throne on the top of the Atomium and robes made from the national flags of the 27 Member States. Or something. I dread to imagine what this will mean for Belgian government, so if you don't hear from me for a while it probably means I have been called upon to run Belgium temporarily. Don't worry, I have an Allen key and I know how to use it. Well, I don't but I know a man who does.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Pathetic Trolley Fallacy

I'm in McDonalds in an insalubrious corner of Brussels. Interesting French RnB soundtrack, and by 'interesting' I mean 'pierce my eardrums and end this misery now'. It's half nine at night and I ache all over from exploits I may describe later. McDonalds smells of tramp and I've just had to fend off the attentions of "Terry from Miami", who after bellowing "CHOCOLATE MILKSHAKE" at the girl on the till, has turned his attentions to asking me why I have no husband. I can only assume Belgacom has some vested interest in making me morbidly obese and miserable. How much longer, Belgacom? Also, it is at times like this that I wonder quite how well reasoned my daily blogging compulsion is. Enfin, bon. I am not here to reflect on my skewed priorities, not tonight anyway. I want to tell you about Colruyt.

Let me tell you about Colruyt. This is a special treat for Jeremy who is missing Brussels. Missing the smell of crazy person, dark, gloomy bars full of beer and motheaten small dogs, the omnipresent waffle vans, the sandwich filling called "cannibal".

I went to Colruyt today. Colruyt - I am too tired and pathetic to link to its website, though I imagine it has one, powered by a hamster on a wheel and a tape recorder - is a discount supermarket. First you have to say discount right. After me: "deezcoont". Thank you.

Colruyt is not merely a deezcoonteur, however. It is also a Belgian Institution. It is a technical, physical impossibility to live in Belgium for more than a week without someone telling you that Colruyt has the best meat in Belgium. Certainly, the meat is treated with a bizarre reverence there. It is displayed, lovingly, behind a glass window and in order to buy any you have to - get this - fill in a paper order form and hand it to the unsmiling phlegmish assistant. They may also ask you for a copy of your residence permit and six months bank statements. Perfectly normal. Then you have to go away. Sometime later, they call for you over the tannoy. Probably in phlegmish. If you answer a set of security questions correctly, you may have your meat.

Back me up Belgian residents - true, no?


Ok. Next! The Colruyt trolleys are rightly famous throughout Belgium for their tricksy approach to, well, movement. They are way worse than the most wilful hoover for bolting with you. You need to finesse the trolley. Brute force does nothing. Basically, if you try to impose your will on a Colruyt trolley it will aim directly for the most vulnerable, young or elderly, or merely furious, person and CRUSH THEM. You will be powerless to stop it. Today, I was inducted into the inner circle of Colruyt users however, when a shelf stacker kindly took me aside as my trolley tried to eat his shins and flay him alive with its Boudicea chariot wheel style action.

"Ne regardez pas les rayons madame!"

Don't look at the food displays.

Er. Ok?

"Pourquoi?"

(Why)

"C'est bien connu, il faut regarder tout droit et le caddie suit. Si vous regardez les étalages, le caddie FONCE DEDANS. Il y a eu des études là-dessus".

(It's well known that you have to look straight ahead, then the trolley follows. If you look at the displays, the trolley heads right for them. There have been studies on the topic).

"Euh, merci?"


He was right though. I feel oddly privileged. I am one of the Colruyt illuminati. Now you are too. Lucky, no?

The rest of the shop, which is easyjet orange, and made of concrete and tramps, works on the basis that you must buy in bulk, so I did. I took a photo of my siege mentality Colruyt shopping, with weepette for scale. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not. I took a picture of the Ektorp too. You can compensate for having to buy 10kg of rice by eating your entire dinner from the trays of samples laid out. Colruyt on a Saturday is like an ambassador's reception, except with more beer. There are trays of nibbly things everywhere.

Last Colruyt fact for today: The absolute, very first thing on the shelves as you walk into my Colruyt (yes, I feel a sense of ownership now that I have been upgraded to trolley whisperer status) is GORDONS GIN.

Tomorrow is move day. I have boxed up everything I could remember. I found all sorts of peculiar artefacts - my sister's hospital bracelet from her birth, a shark's tooth, several child's teeth in peculiar places. I will be very glad when it's done, and I can collapse on the Söfa with my gay adoptive son, who is visiting, in an amazing act of filial devotion, and drinking Colruyt gin. We might even go and have steak and chips at Johnny Halliday's favourite café. If we do, I will bring my camera as it is a most blogworthy sight indeed. Hurrah!

(Oh, whoever sent me the book of Wendy Cope poetry, thank you so much. There was nothing to indicate who it was from, but it was hugely welcome. )

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Day 1 in the Salmon Palace

Ok, this will be short and pointless and brought to you by the power of sugar (I am in Haagen Dazs. I can't even spell it, let alone manage to order, but the waiters are so extraordinarily slow, that I can sit undisturbed sucking up the sweet sweet wifi for, it would appear, hours).

I am in the new house. Well, not this minute, clearly, as explained above. And it's really quite ok. I LIKE it. I spent yesterday evening wandering around, bathed in a warm salmony glow from the walls, followed by the weepette, who is not coping quite as well as I am with the move and will not leave my side for a second, but patters next to me from the loo to the Ektorp to the kitchen, his protuberant anxious eyes fixed on me, feebly whining.

The house now contains a babyfoot table as well as a large floor cushion and the Ektorp. I am tempted to just stop there, and bask in the minimalist joy of living a 19 year old boy's fantasy life (well, ok, I don't have enough video games, food, or pornography probably, but you know what I mean). As soon as you start noticing what's missing you could be stuck furnishing for ever - dustpans and brooms and dishwasher product and god only knows what else. Why bother? It will all creep in soon enough. Stuff has a habit of doing that.

It's too early to really miss the boys. This is a hiatus. It'll get hard once they've spent a week with me and I have to part with them again. Hard for me, just as hard for them, probably equally hard for the CFO dealing with the fallout. I remember myself how hard those transitions were, and for me it was only ever weekends and holidays.

For now, though, it's peaceful in the house, and lively when I go out, which is blissful. When I walked the dog at seven this morning, there were PEOPLE in the street and SHOPS OPENING. Shops! Excuse the caps, but after three years in Belgium, I thought I might never see the like of this again. The Italian deli down the road is open late, and the Pain Quotidien opens at 7. I love it. I may never cook again, which will be an immense relief for all concerned.

Tomorrow I go back to pack up, and on Thursday the removal men come. But it's ok. I hope it stays ok. I hope, perhaps tomorrow, to get enough wifi to write something that doesn't read like a slightly stilted postcard. Maybe even do some pictures. It's been ages since we had an visual light relief on these pages, other than owls (I'm not knocking the owls. I wouldn't dare knock the owls). I hope, when I get home - yes, home - the dog hasn't eaten all my shoes and crapped on my bed. I hope the boys are ok, I hope the CFO is ok. I'm keeping everything crossed, and eating ice cream and brownies for dinner. It's a start.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Freakblog interlude

I'm fighting with my body at the moment. I hate it. It makes me angry and sick and I want to hurt it, scratch my legs over and over and make them bleed, pinch my sides, thump my upper arms until they bruise, squeeze my stomach until it's covered in red weals. I feel fat, and disgusting, puffy and featureless, like a dumpling. I can't bear to wear trousers, because I can feel them on my waist, which I hate. Anything tight is out of the question. I stand in front of the wardrobe in the morning and despair. There's nothing loose and anonymous enough for me. If I could, I'd stay in my dressing gown and tracksuit bottoms all day every day.

I look pretty much exactly the same as I did last month, or the month before, or in September when I posted a succession of pictures of possible outfits for a meeting, or even six months ago when I was briefly and gloriously body confident. That seems utterly outlandish now. I can't even imagine wanting to take a picture of myself. I don't want to see myself in a mirror.

Of course, none of us needs to have a psychology degree to realise that this is just stress finding an old, familiar path to escape down. I know that. I know I am massively, ridiculously, stressed in all manner of ways, including several I don't, can't, even discuss here. This is a hard, painful thing we are all doing and since it's my decision, I have to make it be ok, somehow. So every day, I go running around with a tape measure and a tool kit, for fuck's sake, and go to hardware shops and carpet shops, and discuss fencing and decide what to bring and what to leave, and continually make decisions. I suck at making decisions. I mean, I really REALLY suck. My decisions - in the practical sphere at least - are shit. I just go with whatever the person opposite tells me to go with. Wall mounted tv or free standing? Do I want someone to come and measure up for carpets or are my measurements accurate? Left or right opening fridge door? Freezer on top or bottom? 25 boxes or just 15 for the kitchen? I. Just. Don't. Know. The first one you said? No? Ok, the other one then. Just put down whatever seems best to you. I don't even know whether any of it will matter, but I'm certainly acting as if it won't. Nothing matters much mid-apocalypse.


So here I am, angry and frustrated with myself for all manner of things, taking it out on my body with wearying predictability. The wiser part of me knows that this is the absolute worst moment, and that as long as I am getting some sleep and some nourishment, I am probably doing as well as I can. I just need to hang on as best I can, and wait for things to improve. That wiser part of me would point out that despite all the pressure and the sadness, I haven't had the slightest bulimic urge. That I'm eating enough, albeit crappily, washing, dressing, functioning. That it will pass. It really will pass. It always passes.

For tonight though, I might just have a little cry. Maybe swear a bit. That's ok isn't it?

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Capybara Clinic is back

I'm not replying to comments individually at the moment, and that really pisses me off. I am so sorry. I am reading all of them and they are so sweet and thoughtful and helpful and funny. I wish you were all round the corner so we could drink gin and kvetch and laugh (except, I would not wish that on you. Belgium is an acquired taste, like, er, gizzards or something). I really REALLY want to reply but OHMYFUCKINGGOD I move out in 4 days and the new house contains only an Ektorp, four chairs and two large plush animals, a dog and a seal (yes, maman has been taking the children Guilt Shopping).


(As an aside, I am quite enjoying the random and unhelpful way I am acquiring stuff for the house. I just wave my lists madly in front of my eyes until they focus on something, drive to the appropriate shop and buy one at random. Sadly, this being Belgium, none of the stuff I believe I have bought (it may be an extended hallucination) has been delivered yet, and I am beginning to believe it never will be. No matter, I have sufficient soft stuff to fashion a large nest, and who needs a fridge anyway? It's cold out. The Bonne Maman crème caramels can live in the back yard, student accommodation style. On the best case scenario I will only have to sleep on the floor for, ooh, four days. I'll be fine. So will my gay adoptive son, I hope, when he comes to build a giant phallus out of waffles in the back yard and bring me pope shaped gifts next week. He's young and resilient. I hope.)


So. In the interests of Giving Something Back to the internet for its humour and compassion and cleverness, I am calling Dr Capybara back for another session. He hasn't offered his services for far too long and god knows, I have got unbelievably whiny and pathetic in his absence. I need a good, long, rodent kick. I need to be called "punk" and scorned. I bet you do too.


So. Please place your questions or problems for Dr Capybara in the comments and he will answer them. I have placed a large sum of Venezuelan dollars in a numbered account in the Cayman Islands, so satisfaction is most certainly guaranteed.


I will start the furry ball rolling with this:

Dear Dr Capybara,

I have the feeling that all the tradespeople I have encountered over the last month in setting up my new home are robbing and cheating me and I am too British to do anything about it. I agree to outlandish prices, stupidly long delivery times and am repeatedly, egregiously lied to whilst all the time I behave with exquisite, idiotic politeness.

"Oh goodness! €2000000 for a second hand mattress from your basement that you can't deliver until next June? That seems perfectly, er, reasonable. Of course. Where do I sign?"

Please can you give me some tips on rodenty South American assertiveness.

Many thanks,

Emma

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Birds, Stump, Stuff

Birds

Ah, fuck it. I don't have much to say. Look at these owls instead (no, don't get excited, they are merely cute, not epoch-defining like Owl in a Box). Hey! Wanstead Bird guy! This is the SECOND time I have featured birds on my weblog since you linked to me. Flattered? I could tell you about the seagull I met in Edinburgh too. Well, when I say "met", I mean "limped away from, whimpering in terror". It was the size of a horse. At this point it is incumbent upon me to say that anyone who hasn't read Anna's post on seagulls must go and read it now.


Ok. Enough fucking birds [ed].


Stump

It is Armistice Day and a public holiday in Belge Land. I have spent a proportion of the day standing in my new back garden getting wet feet and talking about a "souche" (tree stump). I don't give a shit about the tree stump, but the neighbours who have escaped from the famous French film "La vie est une longue fleuve tranquille", do. The neighbours are ostentatiously Catholic and have SIX tweedy blond children. The two eldest are respectively "chez les Jésuites" and "au séminaire". Madame has perfected what I call "le style biscotte" a combination of extreme dessicated thinness (due to a diet of Sveltesse prune flavoured yoghurts and biscottes, those crumbling, joyless French bread substitutes), a pie crust blouse and a cardigan with gold buttons pulled tightly over concave chest and the incontournable bouche en cul de chat (cat's arse face). Le tout accessorised with a drooping Christ crucifix. Oh, I imagine she alternates with a nylon ribbed polo neck.

[I am being mean about my new neighbour. I know this is bad. But there is practically nothing and noone I can be mean about any more and I am in the mood for employing Mrs Trefusis's infamous ninja toasting fork. I am not Fotherington Thomas, dammit and if you are expecting me to rhapsodise about the light fading over the Atomium and the kitteny softness of babies' cheeks you have come to the wrong place.]

I am apparently responsible for this fucking souche and its removal. I am not enthused. Once more, this does not seem to be the kind of expenditure likely to bring me Roland Mouret dresses. Maybe I can have a debauched tree stump party? We can sacrifice virgins and small goats on its slimy, mouldering surface. Raise spirits?


Stuff

Contents of the new house today:

1 (white! HA!) Ektorp sofa.

Some towels.

Some duvets.

Some curtains, still in packets

A roll of tin foil

An empty Maltesers packet


Likely additions before I moving in this Monday:


A bottle of gin

A hot water bottle


That seems sufficient, no?

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

Listing

I am starting, squeamishly, to pack. As much as one can without boxes. I am mainly packing in my head and on long, crazy person lists, with some flutteringly feeble attempts to pile things up. It is woefully little, terrifyingly late. I am moving early next week. In my head I'm not actually taking anything except the piano and a small sofa and a chair, but the reality is rather different. I mean, there are clothes, and shoes, and nicky nacky trinkety bits of nonsense, and the CFO is very unreasonably refusing to retain custody of all my unopened bills and correspondence with HSBC.

The kitchen is ok. We have too much of most things, particularly bowls of course. I might have to return to my former career of cutlery crime for spoons. I get the Kitchenaid, he gets the juicer. For all either of us know, the juicer may have a family of rare bats nesting in it given the amount of use it has. I am prone to self-delusion, but not prone enough to believe I am going to start juicing. I have mass purchased bedlinen and towels in a twitchy fashion, so that's not a problem either. We've talked about all the big stuff, most of which is staying here with the CFO, and apart from some serious residual sadness on both sides over pictures and photos, we're ok with it. I'll be pretty devastated not to see the Skygarden from my bed any more, but in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty low on the list of miseries. Oh, and of course I don't even have a bed to look at it from. The weepette gets to keep one of his two favoured chairs.

I am trying to decide what books to take. The CFO is keen to keep the shelves full (not a problem, overflow paperbacks clutter most corners), so I am only taking what I really want to have, to keep, to read or reread. It's an odd mix, so far; part what I genuinely want to read or reread, and partly deluded. Deluded in that I am taking all the worthy stuff that I have not, thus far, had any desire to read, books of poetry bought for me by Prog Rock or my mum, giant history tomes I failed to read during my degree or subsequently, things I bought believing I should have read them that stare reproachfully down from their dusty perches (Don DeLillo, Montaigne, Yeats and Proust biographies, I am particularly thinking of you here) .

It's stupid really. Going half a mile down the road is unlikely to change my reading habits. I will still buy whatever modern novels catch my eye on the 3 for 2 pile, or that are well-reviewed, or that I like the sound of. I will re-read almost nothing - Wodehouse, Mitford, Cold Comfort Farm, I Capture the Castle, David Sedaris. I will flirt with poetry again and it will make me feel peculiar again and I will shove it away in a distant corner. I will never look at my big art and photography books. Does anyone look at them? I have been as guilty as anyone of buying them as gifts, but really? Do you ever look at them more than once?

What would you really really have to take with you if you moved? Or what would you and your significant other fight to the death over? It can be like that "what would you save if the house was on fire" question they ask in magazines. I've never managed to answer it satisfactorily when I am playing 'fantasy when I am a celebrity interview' in my head (don't give me that, of course you've played). I can only conclude I would burn to death trying to decide which picture to take. With my mouth full of shoes. I wouldn't make a great buddhist, would I?

Monday, 9 November 2009

Obliquely weekly review

If I tried to do the weekly review thing for the past seven days I would end up sticking my head in the shredder. Let us instead do what I do with bank statements, my arse when accidentally spotted in a badly placed mirror, and correspondance with the Tresorie Public - look fixedly around the edges, not allowing our eyes to stray for a nano-second into the forbidden zones where Bad Things lurk. At least, not unless we are holding both hands in front of our face for protection. In Belgium, when you want to withdraw money from a cash machine, it cruelly insists on displaying your balance at the bottom of the screen. I have become expert at putting my wallet in front of the offending pixels. With our wallets firmly pressed against the screen, let us proceed with caution.


Monday

A rogue bank holiday catches me out and I am imprisoned at home, alternately snapping and bribing the spawn to let me work. At the end of the day, when we all hate each other and the dog is cowering in his kennel, hiding both from the sound of me shrieking like a demented harridan and Fingers sitting on him and attaching 3 rolls of sellotape to his tail and ears, Team Sudoku (the CFO's parents) comes to the rescue.


Tuesday

La la lalalalalaa.
La
La
Very cold out.
Wine? Thank you, I don't mind if I do. No, no glass, just open the tap on the giant wine box, papy, and I'll put my head underneath it, thanks.


Wednesday

We go to Switzerland and stay here, pretending momentarily to be rich. It is nicely womblike and has lamps shaped like jellyfish. Approximately 47% of guests appear to be Russian hookers. I eat a steak that is considerably larger - and tastier - than my head and drink stuff made with lychees and vodka. The CFO and I get drunk and I cry sporadically. Because there is a minibar entirely stocked with FREE soft drinks (FREE! Included in room rate!) I do not suffer unduly from the drinking because I am better hydrated than at any time in my adult life, stubbornly filling myself with free Fanta and Perrier until I feel like I will explode. Maybe this is why rich people look so much better than I do? Free soft drinks?


Thursday

After stuffing our bags with everything we can steal and filling our pockets with snacks from breakfast wrapped in stolen shower caps, we spend the day wandering round Geneva. I finally buy the CFO his long-delayed 40th birthday present. It's the oddest, saddest, day. There is a definite sense of finality as we part at the airport.


Friday

I go to Scotland. After what feels like a week on various small trains staring at fields full of sheep, I eventually reach Edinburgh. M and I stomp around saying "cock" and drink cocktails and eat cake and laugh at hippies and poke things in shops. She laughs cruelly when my shoes make a sound like seagulls farting on the marble floor of Harvey Nichols. My hotel is bizarrely seedy and employs a sad Eastern European girl to droop on the stairs spraying foaming chemicals and dabbing at them ineffectually.

We are particularly amused by the "Eco-erotic Emporium" selling organic and sustainably sourced erotica. M takes a picture which she will send me soon, please M.

Saturday

I wake up with a knee the size of Belgium and can barely hobble as far as Jaeger to stalk a dress that looks exactly like every other dress I own. Thankfully they do not have it in stock, though they have a large number of other very desirable things that I have to violently prevent myself buying. Jaeger is verrrry, dangerously, good for people like me who are short and fond of elegant black dresses despite having problems with basics of elegance like hosiery without holes, and fingernails. Oh, hang on, I appear to have turned into my mother. Also, having persued the "New Arrivals" section on line, it appears to be full of mad clothes that Joan Collins rejected in 1983, and PLUS FOURS. FOR WOMEN. Words are inadequate. I hobble to Hawkins Bazaar which is the best shop in the history of the world ever and buy luminous disco ducks, dinosaur eggs, slime, wind up snails, jumping beans and other exceptionally cheap tat for boys.

I spend the rest of the day alternating between having baths in my new Elemis muscle soak, which is made of magic, watching shitty tv and napping. It is very, very nice. However when M comes round, I realise my knee has locked at a 45° angle and I can't move it. This is not important, thankfully, as M and I are so overcome with fumes from the special foaming cleaning product that the mournful girl is applying to the carpet outside the room, that we end up watching 'Paris Hilton's New Best Friend' and giving ourselves spectacularly shit manicures.

Finally, M (5 feet of fierceness) has to practically carry me to the bus. Noone even glances at us, since they just assume I am drunk. Soon after that, I am.


Sunday

I am awake all night weeping into my Halloween pumpkin knee. (well, not strictly into it, which would be disgusting) and watching X Factor repeats. This means I am up in plenty of time to take the Sheep Express back all the way across Scotland.

Very many hours of low rent travel later I get back to Brussels and we finally tell the boys we are separating. The next few hours are among those I would least like to live again in my life. It is at least done, though.


Haiku version:


Sustainably sourced
Organic tofu sex toys
More fun than break up

Your turn.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Miss Havisham, no transport

I have half an hour before my free wifi expires. What can I tell you in half an hour? More than you could ever wish for, I fear.

I am in Edinburgh. Edinburgh, I can now tell you, is a goodly distance from Prestwick airport. A distance, indeed, that I would have thought exceeded the size of the whole of Scotland. I think my train went to every single place in the whole of Scotland yesterday, though perhaps my perception of time was skewed by my travel companions on the Ned Express and my fear that the one with the tracheotomy tube would come and sit next to me. By the time I got off I was drunk by proxy on Tennants Export and magazine induced shinything lust. When we wandered round Harvey Nichols later yesterday I kept stopping and saying 'ooh, I saw that in a magazine', until M was forced to beat me over the head with Elemis muscle soak.

I am also BROKEN. So, so broken. The knee of death is back and it is combining with Michael O'Leary Syndrome (pain, muscle ache, neck cramps and general lack of will to live caused by having to shove all possessions into tiny bag and cram into the yellow bird of death, herded by disdainful Eastern Europeans to probable death) to make me incapable of movement. I have hobbled along Princes Street drawing concerned and appalled stares, half expecting charitable Edinburgh ladies to shove 50p pieces into my pathetic claws. It's shaming, and humbling to be this immobile. You feel suddenly vulnerable, and a bit ridiculous. I have to wait for the green man to cross roads and, like a Dalek, stairs unman me completely. It makes me worry about old age. Possibly I am there already, on the strength of this. How will I cope on my own? How will I even manage the move? It's in a week, holy mother of Nathan. At this rate I will have to adopt Mya's recent suggestion to train the weepette to pull a small bath chair. Given he remains resistant to understanding basic commands like 'Heel', this is unlikely to be achievable within a week. It's going to be Dr Kevorkian time again.

More immediately, more pressingly, more shallowly, I am concerned about M's birthday party tonight. She is considerably younger than me (we can share a brain despite this due to her egregious old lady tendencies, particularly in the fields of knitting) and all the dirty students she has promised to lay on for me will be appalled and disgusted at the sight of my decreptitude. I have brought two dresses with me in a feat of Michael O'Leary defying packing prowess, but neither of them cover the knee of death which is currently the size of, ooh, a galia melon? Heading towards pumpkin? I could wear what I am wearing now (+J v neck jumper and Gap skating skirt), but it's already on its second day. And there were cocktails yesterday so there are probably holes and stains I haven't even noticed yet.

So. Task for readership. What can I wear/do to deal with giant decrepit old lady failing body? How can I transform myself into the usual sultry WaffleSiren (cough cough, hem hem)? I have about £80, all day, and limited mobility. Go on, get creative.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

I am not even slightly dead

Hello.

Things that have not happened to me:

1. I have not been consumed by a passion for Sudoku so great I can no longer blog.

2. I have not injured my typing arms in any way.

3. I am not so consumed with trauma that I cannot get out of a rocking foetal ball on the floor.

4. I have not been placed under an injunction not to write on my weblog.

5. I have not abused drugs or alcohol to such a degree I am incoherent and cannot form sentences (this might prove to be a mistake on my part).

6. I have not had a change of heart and stopped blogging altogether.

7. Oscar has not chewed my face off.

8. La belle-mère has not stuffed me in the cocotte minute and made me into soup for taking a candid shot of her and beau-père doing synchronised sudoku in their slippers (try saying that after a couple of lychee martinis).


No.


I have been in Geneva thrashing out a Waffle version of the Versailles Treaty with the CFO. We have agreed on the essential points as follows:

- We are ace at breaking up. I, in particular, win the Oscar for best break up. Amusingly, my prize is Oscar. Oh, how we laughed!

- Our children are fucking brilliant.

- I will still go shopping for clothes with him when he needs more clothes.

- The end.

Good, no? In between thrashing out these crucial points, we bought him a very late birthday present, had too much to drink and squabbled and fell over and so on.

I will try and post tomorrow but I am in Scotch Land celebrating M, my brain twin's birthday.

(Incidentally, can some grammar drone explain to me the correct way of doing that last sentence? Do I have to say "celebrating the birthday of my brain twin M" to avoid getting tangled in missing apostrophes? )

We will be celebrating in traditional Scotch Land fashion by leering at students, saying "cock" a lot and drinking stuff with lychees in. Oh, and plotting our continued world domination through the medium of mean crafts. I promise to report back incoherently afterwards, even if I fail to do so while I am there.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Offcuts

Very odd day that I can't really talk about. As you may recall, when I say that, it is NOT because someone has offered me vasts sums of money to lie around eating cake and talking about my biscuit philosophy.

By the way, thank you so much for all your wonderful support yesterday. I was having a shockingly awful day; it culminated catatonic and trembling in a foetal ball on the bench outside smoking one of the CFO's hideous cigarettes. Today was an improvement in at least one respect: la belle-mère made Proper Dinner with a guinea fowl and potatoes and everything. I nearly wept with gratitude. Have I ever mentioned that they travel everywhere with a 10 litre wine box in case of emergencies? You love them now, don't you, and rightly so. I have left them to watch police procedurals translated into French tonight (Portés Disparus/"Coald Kess"/Police Judiciaire/"Ze Waïre") , and snuck off to bed.

In the absence of anything remotely edifying, and frankly it's a miracle I can put fingers to keyboard at all, here are some arbitrary observations/housekeeping points from today.

1. A Flock of (Shoe) Seagulls

The thing I hate most about Brussels - more than the service des étrangers, UHT milk or the lighting in Delhaize - is the way the paving stones interact with my shoes. WHY, holy mother of Nathan, do they make all my shoes squawk mournfully like seagulls? What is it about the gaps beween paving stones here that sucks my heels in and keeps them, leaving me to hop around and swear to myself, suddenly barefoot in a public place? There is a particular street I walk down everyday, that combines both these appealing characteristics. I will systematically lose a shoe in an embarassing fashion (usually this happens right next to the gangs of too cool for school drama students who lurk around in gangs looking like an edgier version of the Kids from Fame) and then walk the rest of the way squawking. Kark, kark kark, squeeeek. I've tried speeding up, slowing down, all manner of different heel heights, and every time the result is the same. Is it the way I walk? My choice of shoes? I NO LONGER CARE. I have shoe rage.

2. Viral marketing, innit?

No, I cannot tell you what the prototype in the 'Belgian Pic of the Week' is. Not yet. Suffice to say it is something that my brain twin M and I are cooking up as part of our plan for world domination through the medium of craft and swearing and it makes us laugh like Dastardly and Muttley. Well, if one can do such a thing by email.

E: The two halves of the brain will finally be united!

M: What?

E: Moving sloooowly towards each other.

M: Like a slug.

E: Like two halves of a broken slug. Slurp, slurp.

M: Ugh. Unclean.

E: Our brain IS unclean.


3. I am so very sorry

I have terrible TERRIBLE guilt right now about things promised and not delivered on this very weblog. Person to whom I owe that book from ages ago - I am a shithead. Sorry. People who did amazing things for the village fête - I am also a shithead. So so sorry. Sometime, before we are incontinent and delirious in nursing homes, I will actually follow up on what I have promised.

4. Parfum, Lashes style

I have had a horrible conversation with Lashes tonight. Well the horrible was more in the object we were discussing (I wrote 'disgusting' first time, as well I might). Vieux doudou, his comfort blanket, also know as Old Mimi, also known as "that stinky rag". It used to be a scarf of sorts. Then it morphed into what looked horribly like a set of filthy white dreads held together only by knots and slime. Then he lost that one and rapidly created another one in its image made from some pyjama bottoms of mine. When I asked him how he made it so putrid so quickly, he looked shifty and said something evasive. I do not pursue it; this is definitely one of those things better left unsaid.

Anyway, tonight he summoned me and made me smell it. Why did I agree, you are wondering? Because I am in a state of Perma Guilt at the moment.

"You have to smell it, it has a strange smell".

"Strange? Disgusting more like".

"No! Part of it smells different. WRONG".

I sniff my way carefully along vieux doudou. It smells foul, obviously. I get to a bit that doesn't.

"Is it this bit? It smells of Playdoh here".

He checks, with the assured nose of the connaisseur.

"No, it's not that" .

Finally he finds it himself.

"Here! Sniff this".

He shoves it under my nose. It smells like cheap perfume mixed with photocopier toner. Very nasty indeed. I feel an instant migraine coming on.

"What on earth is it, Lashes?"

"The glo-stick from Halloween, er, leaked"

He's looking shifty again.

"Well, just keep your face away from that part until it fades a bit".

"No. I have to find a "centre de dégoûtant"

He makes to shove it down his pyjama trousers. I lunge for him in the hope of restoring some shred of decency to proceedings.

"Oh, Lashes, no! Listen, it just means your doudou is, er, four different flavours! Like an ice cream".

This seems to tickle him. I stagger away and retch quietly in the corner. Gag. I have a distinct fear that some sinister tentacle of vieux doudou will still be lurking under his pillow when Lashes hits 45, but at least he'll be marvellously well-adjusted right? RIGHT? Oldest reader still in possession of transitional object from childhood please give me a report on your current psychiatric wellbeing. Thank you.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Half Term 101

I have been so busy swirling around in a flurry of practicalities in the last couple of weeks, that I have forgotten to be sad. I am today. I'm a complete mess, actually.

It's been precipitated by a day of utter chaos; no childcare when I'm supposed to be working and can't be away from my desk, Prog Rock trying to chat, boys beating each other senseless and depositing plastic crap all over the floor, dog getting underfoot and everyone, but everyone, orbiting in a tight circle around my chair that entirely fails to respect any concept of personal space. I have lost count of the number of times someone has fallen over a length of cable. As I type, in the corner of the sitting room (the wifi connection is still buggered, so I'm tethered), Fingers is wrestling with the dog, Pokémon Battle Dimension is liquefying my brain and Lashes is sitting on the arm of my chair pulling at parts of me in some kind of monkey grooming ritual. There are scissors and walnut shells everywhere, mystifyingly. I am like Joyce Grenfell on the verge of a nervous breakdown, part brightly encouraging with an edge of mania ("yes, your mummy made of a milk bottle and sellotape is very realistic darling!"), part sneaking off for crying jags and an overwhelming desire to punch myself in the face. I actually hope I'm getting flu, because if this is purely in my head, it's scary.


Any minute now, the CFO's parents (who know nothing about the current state of affairs, helpfully) will arrive to a scene of shameful devastation and sit in it doing Sudoku. I just sobbed involuntarily thinking about it; I have nothing to feed them and no idea what to say. The kind of emotional mess we are in currently is total anathema to them. I remember back in 1997 they came to stay in London when I was coming off Prozac and I disgraced myself by crying and stropping hysterically. I get the feeling this week might be the same.

Bugger.

It's all normal, I know. These are the very last days of the ancien régime; they are bound to hurt. They bloody well should hurt. It's only a fortnight until I actually move out.

"I think we ought to have a little scene where I throw some of your stuff out on the street and shout a bit" said the CFO this morning, before he left for some obscure European destination. "It would make it more real".

Maybe we should.

Any other ideas?