Thursday, 31 December 2009
Tuesday, 29 December 2009
Monday, 28 December 2009
We’re in the car, heading to the river for a pre-lunch walk. My nephew is Not Happy.
“I don’t want to go to the river!” he says repeatedly, doing the tried and trusted ‘ironing board’ manouevre to stop me putting the straps on the car seat for him. “There’s only grass and trees and water. It’s BORING”.
“Ha!” I say. “Call that boring? You are SO LUCKY you weren’t little when me and your daddy were. When we were little” I continue, warming to my topic “Grandad used to take us to places where there was absolutely nothing – not even water – well, apart from rain - or trees. Just, mud and grass and cold. And every single day he would make us go out and walk for hours and hours on end. We weren’t even walking TO anywhere. Just walking for the sake of it. One time your daddy got so cold he kept asking what the first signs of hypothermia were, because he thought he had it. We hated it, didn’t we?”
My brother nods grimly. If anything, he hated it more than I did. “It was always cold. And it always rained. And there was nothing to see”.
“And he didn’t really have any food either. Maybe an oatcake or some old Kendal Mint Cake if you were lucky. I bet you don’t know what Kendal Mint Cake is, do you?’
My nephew shakes his head.
“Well it doesn’t matter, because it’s disgusting. It didn’t matter how bad the weather was. Sometimes I would sit at the window and watch the rain slicing across the valley and think ‘maybe today we can stay in?’”
“But oh, no” says my brother “It was never bad enough weather to be let off walking. Do you remember that outhouse?”
“What, the one at Rose Cottage? God, yes”
“That place was so cold. What was it made of, cardboard?”
“You see” I explain to my nephew “When Grandad was really sick of us complaining, he used to shut us in this sort of shed place. And it was cold and damp in the shed and so SO boring”.
“Why did Grandad do that?” says my nephew
“He just wanted us to shut up for a while I think. But there was NOTHING to do in there, we got so bored”.
“Well, there were the boxes of Encyclopaedias under the bed” says my brother, ever fair-minded.
“Damp, mildewed encyclopaedias. Ha! Do you remember what else was under the bed?” I raise my eyebrows meaningfully. There were boxes of mysterious, leathery objects – bondage gear we learnt very much later from my dad – abandoned by his former lodger, Radish.
“I would have said NO GRANDAD” says my nephew, decidedly. “And I would have hid”.
“I wish we had thought of that. But he used to be a lot scarier than he is now”.
The Christmas holidays bring it all back – stiff leather boots filled with dead insects, slightly leaky cagoules, huddled in the back seat of the Alfa as Crystal Gayle blasted out in the front, zero visibility, the vague, illusory promise of a pub (Seabrook Ready Salted and a Coke if you were lucky) somewhere at the end of the epic. The dark years of my vegetarianism, nourished only by dehydrated noodles and tins of beans. Getting into a damp bed heated by the electric blanket to perfect Turkish bath. The terrifying prospect of getting – whisper it – snowed in. I’d confess to a trace of nostalgia, but no more than a trace. Not enough to get me to walk up a hill ever again.
In the end the river walk is salvaged by a brick with a chain through it. It doesn’t take much. Not that we had bricks when we were young..
I am seriously confused at the moment. It’s, what? Sunday? No, Monday. This week is always an odd one, of short days and no routines and bizarre sleep patterns, but I’ve added an extra layer of weirdness by trying to cram as much into it as I possibly can, with the added complication of geography. And snow. And basic engineering idiocy by Eurostar (there goes my long-cherished blog sponsorship plot). Tiny planes, giant empty boats, terrifying German cars, and all manner of buses and trains. Add that on top of this peculiar first single Christmas for 16 years, and you have a recipe for utter discombobulation. I’m clinging like an orphaned rhesus monkey to the tools of my continued survival – passport, credit card, various sets of keys, a nest of chargers and adaptors, Iphone, Guerlain Midnight Secret. I forget all the rest – pants, toothbrush, deodorant, presents, warm clothes, socks. Thank god I stopped the anti-depressants and I don’t need contraceptives, because there isn’t a hope I’d remember them.
On Saturday, the CFO and I took the boys to Pizza Hut for lunch (yeah, judge away. This is suburban Brussels on 26th December; it was that or Quick, the hamburger chain that time forgot) and then I kissed them all and drove to the station to get on a train to the airport to fly to London. Yestterday I stood on the grey, windy banks of the Thames and watched my niece and nephew mess around in the mud. I hugged my wonderful brother, arms stretching to meet around his steroid distorted midsection. We went home and played with their new Playmobil pyramid (awesome – I want a Playmobil pyramid. Actually, scrap that, I want to LIVE in a Playmobil pyramid. With my own sphinx). Then I waitied 20 minutes for a 94 bus, dropped my bag and ran to get a train to go to a cocktail party in the Cotswolds. I’m sitting writing this on the train back in a daft dress and heels, with a sweaty sheen of daiquiri on my upper lip. My knee of death is being a dick again, so I have no great belief I’ll be able to get up again in Paddington and even if I do it’s hardly going to be a pretty sight.
All this frenetic activity is entirely deliberate. I can’t in all conscience complain about something I’ve engineered myself. The thought of a week alone in the Salmon Palace, however good it might have been for the Great Belgian Novel, my finances, the house, and my sanity, seemed unbearable. And like a homing pigeon, when I get some free time I migrate stubbornly to London. So here I am, and of course most people leave London and go and see their families, walking through stupidly pretty, empty Notting Hill, looking in, and sneering at, lavishly themed Christmas trees, rushing from one end of the country and the city to the other.
It’s a bit lonely. I’m terribly good by myself as a rule, but there’s something about these few days that seem made for hibernating in an overheated, selection box finishing fug, getting cabin fever and squabbling with family members. It shows my decisions in exceptionally sharp relief. ‘This’, it says ‘is what you wanted. You wanted independence, time on your own, adventures. Well here it is. And don’t you dare have the temerity to complain if you don’t like it’.
And I’m not complaining. Have I sent the odd pathetic text? Certainly. Have I done anything regrettable? Nowhere near as much as I might have liked. I seem unable to fall over regrettable behaviour however hard I try. Have I had fun? Yes. Are there hollow, lonely, scary moments? Yes. Lots. Do I actually regret being where I am right now? No. Emphatically no. And that, presumably, is the acid test.
Saturday, 26 December 2009
I believe some of you are so retrograde as to not waste whole swathes of your life writing 140 character messages. Those that do had a sneak preview of this, Christmas Eve night on a P&O Hull to Zeebrugge ferry.
Our bemused but obliging Philippino crew will get you in the party mood:
Thursday, 24 December 2009
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
I'm having terrible problems with impatience at the moment. Not in the sense of being short-tempered, which I am, but no more than usual. It's more, well, that I want things to happen. Mysterious, ill-defined things. Things, with a capital T that I couldn't explain if you asked me. I want to skip past the next few months. Fast forward. Get to somewhere a bit clearer. I swear, it's like being seventeen again, this separation business. I'm desperate to be further on, to have done more, finished with this phase. Everything seems to move glacially slowly to my sulky, teenage mind. All my little treats - and there are quite a few lined up, mercifully, in the next two weeks - seem so far away. The 23rd? AGES. 27th? Unbearably distant. New Year's Eve in Paris? A lifetime away. And will the trains even work? Uuuuurgh, imagine me in a teenage flounce of stupid, impotent despair.
Oh, and look at these two, Team Snow:
The Space Cadette sledged so much she made herself sick. You have to love that in a 25 year old, no?
Sunday, 20 December 2009
Wednesday, 16 December 2009
Tuesday, 15 December 2009
Monday, 14 December 2009
We so pretty! You should have seen us singing along, badly, with all the wrong words, to Brigitte Bardot's "Je n'ai besoin de personne en Harley Davidson" or talking to each other in pig German. I note that my face is looking very fat and puffy from a diet of nothing but fucked up broken biscuits for approximately a week. Delightful.)
2. I had to pretend to be taking a photo of City Road, but look past him at SKI SUIT WOMAN. I should say that the hall was boiling, a fug of crafter sweat and tears and cake, but ski suit/furry hat woman, who was entirely dedicated to her total look, did not even flinch.
3. Not an outfit, but the magnificently weird taxidermy stall. Look at the lamb in a box! Wee Birdy has better pictures here.
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Can't. Blog. Must. Bake. Bake bake bake bake bake bake bake bake bake bake. Only 36 hours 'til I leave for London with my cargo of tupperware boxes full of mean biscuits. Only, what, 60 hours or so until C-DAY. I am wearing a polka dot apron and an authentically Cruel Tea expression of fury and madness. I decided to tweak my recipe in a fit of stupidity and hubris, and then I realised that the only salt I had is big boulders of grey rock salt. There is butter everywhere and the weepette is scavenging eggshells out of the bin in a fit of stress induced bulimia and grinding them to an attractive paste on the rug. Seriously, he's behaving like a compulsive over-eater, mid-binge. Every time I leave the room and come back, I am confronted by a gloomy, skinny faced weepette with its front paws on some illegal stretch of kitchen, eating chocolate coins, or dry bread, or avocado skin. Literally, in the time it took me to write that phrase, it had dismembered an old avocado on the floor in a silent frenzy. What the fuck? Is this a notorious weepette trait that I am unaware of? (I am now steeling myself for a rush of whippet bulimia related keyword searches).
Yes, I did bloody well make it myself. Look, here it is festering, sorry, cooking:
It was gross. I lost control of my salting hand and created a briny monster. The shallots were putrid. I nearly didn't finish it, and I'm one of those 'pathologically unable to leave food on a plate' people. See? See what I did for you? I am very, very, very stupid.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
Monday, 7 December 2009
Katyboo did her fantasy Christmas list today. Katyboo is ace in all manner of ways, including warning me several months ago in very graphic and precise terms that I would have weeks like this one during this whole separation-pocalypse thing, when I would feel like nothing so much as crawling under a stone and never emerging, when I would question my own sanity and feel like everything would feel fucked up forever. Simply knowing it was a normal part of the process has been hugely helpful, and I have only been sort of half-wedged under a small pebble. Easier to wipe up the rivers of snotty tears that way, anyway. Katyboo was emphatic, both then and now, that it would improve. This is also a huge comfort. She is kind and wise and wonderful and deserves everything on her fantasy Christmas list and more.
Sunday, 6 December 2009
Note to self: when a strange woman off the interweb suggests you team up and attend a craft fair in London, say no.
I woke up last night in sweats from a horrible nightmare. I'd been trying to register to get to our stand at Craftacular, pushing and shoving at the hundreds of other crafters who were trying to steal my spot. The organizer looked me up and down scathingly, making a disobliging remark about my makeup (I was wearing none), suggesting perhaps I ought to get lessons from a professional. "But there isn't time!", I wailed. "Where are your magnets?", she replied. Fuck! The magnets! I rushed back to the office, a tall, impregnable building surrounded by crystalline, crocodile-infested waters. I was running through treacle, my floral apron hanging around my thighs like a lead blanket. "What are you doing?", asked a friend as she emerged from behind a bush. I explained. "A craft fair? In London? That's ridiculous. You don't even know how to drive."
This is just the latest installment, the crowning glory of the When Good Craft goes Bad saga. What started out as a harmless hobby has taken over my life. My studio is an obstacle course. Mountains of boxes hang precariously overhead. Unwound spools wait to trip me up. I've been worrying for the past couple of days that I left the iron on when I left.
Home is no better. The kitchen is a disaster zone. I can't remember the last time I cooked a meal, let alone washed a plate. I'm fairly certain I haven't showered since Thursday. I've taken over the sofa, along with two thirds of the living room. Owlinabox is wedged somewhere between two pillows. My boyfriend and I are engaged in a silent battle of wills. He doesn't like me leaving the tiny pair of scissors on the sofa, something about it being sharp and dangerous blablabla, and yet that's where I need it. He moves it to the coffee table. I move it back to my lap. We glare at each other menacingly. He retreats to the bedroom.
Here, let me show you:
There is still so much to do. There are boxes to be ordered, magnets to be printed, cake stands to be wrapped, clothes rails and table covers to be sourced. There is rude - but elegant! - customer service to be practised. Then the Waffle and I must make our way to London from our respective rainy hinterlands, carrying our body weight in dough and wool and embroidered aprons. There we will meet, haggard and dishevelled, for the final baking marathon.
I have painted a grim picture, but it will all be alright in the end. We are not brain twins for nothing. Our competitive perfectionism will prevail; our stand will be a dazzling display of wit, rudeness, and desirable goods.
Do come and say hello if you are in town on the 12th of December. And maybe buy a thing or two. Fuck you very much in advance.