Sunday, 31 January 2010

Lost in the post

Huh, there should be a blog post, right here. Various things have prevented its appearance.

Most immediately one of those baths that you can't get out of. You know what I mean, don't you? Not that the bath is so wonderful, and you are so blissfully afloat that you don't want to ever leave, but rather than something in the difference between the air and water temperature keeps you riven to the base of the bath, slightly chilly, but not as chilly as you would be if you got out. There is, of course, no more hot water to sort this quandary out. You just have to lie there until the air temperature is preferable. That kind of bath.

Earlier, there was the good old, traditional 5am panic attack. Despite the potentially anxiety inducing events of the last six months or so, I seem to have been oddly insulated from outbreaks of panic. I have been all luxe, calme et gin. But some kind of massive reality check hit me in the early hours of this morning, and suddenly and mysteriously wide awake, my brain went into meltdown in the time honoured small hours fashion. It went something like "OHMYFUCKINGGOD I have written nothing since November I barely earn enough to cover the rent the economy is down the plughole and I want to break into an industry that is teetering on the brink of total collapse why did I buy more underwear yesterday and I still don't have a valid ID card all I do is dick around on the internet all day oh god oh god oh god". It was longer and more repetitive than this but you get the general picture. It has subsided to a tight chest in the course of the day with occasional spells of vertigo. It has however kicked my ass into actually doing something about my manuscript, or 'heap of coffee stained pages'. I have finally beaten Chapter 6 into submission. Chapter 7, do not sit there looking so smug with your butter stains from my mid-afternoon crumpet mountain. I am coming for you next, even though I have absolutely no idea what you are about any more.

A long, cold - though also sunny and beautiful - walk with weepette during which at one point Oscar fell through thin ice into a freezing pond. Pauvre weepette. I have rarely seen anything look quite so cold, bedraggled and defeated. Ah, bony one, sometimes life reserves the most appalling surprises. I thought I should try and embrace dog walking as, like, a positive experience rather than something to be endured (Knee of Death, remember). So with a sexy as hell self-adhesive anti-inflammatory patch stuck to the Knee of Death, I gave it a try (along with occasional blog commenter Fran). So far so good, I have not ballooned up to pumpkin proportions and it only took about 2 hours and 4 crumpets to regain feeling in my limbs. My brain took a little longer.

So. There's no post tonight. Sorry. Here, have a mournful dog photo:

This was right before I cruelly Febrezed his chair, thereby making his day exponentially worse.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Space Without History

Who's for German installation/performance art? Everyone right?

I have had a bit of a crappy week. Sick, plans cancelled, little or no progress on anything writing related, and rather (sssh) lonely. I was so sick of my own boring company, I was absolutely determined to go to the German installation/performance art last night, even by myself. And I am so SO glad I did.


Sitting in the cardboard structure is the artist, David. David is from Berlin and he hasn't slept for about 2 weeks. That isn't part of the installation. But it is sort of pertinent.

David wanted to create a Space without History. Obviously, this sounds better in German where it is one gigantic word. The white cardboard creation isn't the space without history. I made that mistake. No, the Space without History is in David's head "and you can't have it". David told me that when I was sitting here:

At the other end of his cardboard tube (I rather coveted this lady's purple boots. I was wearing 100% water absorbing ballet flats. It was snowing). This is how the installation works. David sits you at the high up end of the tubelike structure, then he wedges you in with a piece of plywood around your neck and 'interacts' with you. I was lucky because for me David also used screws.

"You really can't escape now"

"Oh, I reckon I could undo them with my tongue"

"If you were really desperate after, say two or three days maybe"

"Maybe I could even just slide my head out?"


"If I lost loads of head fat while I was imprisoned I could"


This is the plywood restraint. Or sheep, says David.

Once you are strapped in, you dialogue with David whose disembodied head then appears at the other end of a white corridor, a bit like in a near-death experience, like so:

I got into a lot of trouble for taking this picture. NO HANDS ALLOWED. This was important. Thankfully David also needed to scratch his nose, so we agreed we were even.

You look at each other's disembodied heads down the white tube and dialogue.

I was terribly bad at the dialogue part. There may have been some giggling. But it was even worse when I tried to be serious. It was the kind of conversation that probably really works in German. Shame I don't speak any German.

"So, um, is this Space Without History supposed to be, like an absence? Or does it have a positive existence?'

David sighed.

"I am very tired. I have been talking for hours now. And I did not sleep for many many days" .

"Oh, sorry. Of course. Shall I get out?"

I felt a bit bad, like I had broken him. Said the wrong thing and broken everything.

"What is your accent?"

"I don't think I have one. It's neutral".

"No it isn't!"

"Oh. Then it's northern, perhaps"

"Can you do Manchester accent?"

"No. Erm. All right our kid? Oh, no, that's Scouse isn't it?"

"'All right our kid?' Ha. Now I let you out".

At one point a small dog was sick on the floor.

This was not part of the Space Without History.

If you are in Brussels you should really REALLY go. Seriously, go.

It's here and David is there for the next 2 weeks. Go and sit in the box and then tell me about it.

And yes, I have now created a history of the Space Without History, thereby confirming my status as conceptual art barbarian. Tsk.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

In which I cook a meal and want a medal for it

I followed a link a couple of days ago which took me to an article about how food blogs were dominating the Bloggies this year, and how even some those that purported not to be food blogs had food names and probably a hidden food agenda. Like this one. Ha! I thought. If only she knew. But then I posted a recipe yesterday. And now this. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy and it's frankly terrifying. Life - my life at least - is too short to soak quinoa. I would only forget about it for a month and it would suffocate me in my bed.

Reading the Guardian on online in bed this morning, I clicked idly on this and something cracked. I wanted it. It looked delicious, and like proper food. On child weeks I eat children's leftovers, usually with my fingers off their plates like some kind of carrion hunting vulture. On childless weeks, I subsist on my usual combo of toast and Bonne Maman crème caramels. But this.. This looked good. It didn't look specially hard. I wanted it. It's not like I have never cooked, or fear cooking. Before having children I was perfectly au fait with the whole, applying heat to raw foodstuffs thing. But something about the process of catering for 4 people night in night out for 7 years has sucked any love of cooking out of me. Now, however, this pleasingly savoury bowl of noodles was speaking to me. There's no Wagamama in Belgium, needless to say, or this post wouldn't exist.

Brain Twin was encouraging when I told her I was planning to Cook A Meal. Just for me. "I loved making elegant meals for myself when I was single". Our brain twinnage obviously broke down here, since my idea of an elegant meal is putting my toast on a plate. We got sidetracked for a while by the idea of cooking and eating a seagull (this arises from this novel I am reading, where the hero does exactly that. I have suspension of disbelief issues with it, because the hero is weak and starving and we all know that seagulls are the size of family saloon cars and fucking mean).

"Do you think a miso marinade would work for seagull?"

"I think you'd need something a bit stronger, it'd be really gamey. Maybe miso and sake?"

"Ha! Drunken seagull".

But finally she sent me off to shop for, and cook my dinner comme une grande.

First stop: the Asian supermarket by the Bourse. This already made me happy, because it was a bit like being back in Chinatown; mysterious deep frozen body parts, that really particular Asian supermarket smell and noodles as far as the eye can see. I wandered happily for twenty minutes and emerged with a random selection of possibly useful ingredients. Shopping done. That bowl shaped thing in my bag? No, that's not a bowl. No. It's, erm, a snapping turtle. Yes. For the stock.

On my return home, looking at the recipe again, I realised I was trying to make 'udon noodles with miso, walnut and aubergine' with only one of the title ingredients (the noodles). A trip to the supermarket that even despair avoids like the plague: Delhaize. The likelihood of finding even one of the requisite forgotten ingredients seemed low, but I felt I shouldn't give up. I wandered the aisles pitifully, casting longing glances at my faithful friends, the parma ham and the crème caramels. Disaster:

I mean, I didn't have any particular belief they would have miso, but to see that they actually HAD had it, just didn't have any more, was very cruel. Better luck, thankfully, with walnuts and aubergines. No spring onions. Bon.

I assembled my ingredients and tried to take a picture of them. The camera has no battery. I got distracted by several specks of dust and failed to take any photos until I reached this stage:

The aubergines, frying. 250ml is a shitload of oil. If it tastes nice, that will be why. The frying pan is in SHOCK. It hasn't been used for anything but warming ready made supermarket pancakes for weeks.

Here they are, draining or something. Ugly fuckers.

Next, the shallots. The shallots were exceptionally unphotogenic, especially once I got distracted again and left them to burn. The dinner was starting to look almost as brown as that horrible time I tried to cook the contents of the doomed vegetable box. Not as bad as Cuisine de Terror yet though. Mmmmm. Brown.

Because the brown-ness was not yet at its maximum, I toasted the walnuts. When I say 'toasted', of course I mean 'burnt'. At this point I was thinking wistfully about the sweetly plump pots of Bonne Maman goodness sitting in the fridge, requiring no more than a swift tug on their jolly red and white chequered foil lids.

Next! Noodles.

Big fat wormlike noodles, soaking in a sort of improvised marinade in an unauthorised but seemingly necessary departure from the recipe which asked me cavalierly to 'prepare the noodles according to the instructions'. THERE ARE NO INSTRUCTIONS. In the absence of miso I considered and rejected Speculoos spread, Nutella and gin, instead opting for a vague assemblage of stuff bought in the Asian supermarket. Mirin, dashi, sesame oil, soy. Some other stuff I can't read the label of.

Finally I put the worms in a bowl, top with the Brown-ness and garnish with cucumber and, in the absence of spring onions, coriander.


It was actually really quite delicious, the No-Miso Miso aubergine noodles. I have eaten pretty much all of the 'Serves 4' recipe. However the kitchen looks horrific, and I will probably smell of frying for a good 48 hours. I draw no conclusions at all from this. However I have cooked dinner. Yay for me.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Day off

The cruel, implacable OCD part of my brain says that a recipe doesn't count towards my one a day blog post quota. The cruel implacable OCD part of my brain should really cut me some slack, but sadly it doesn't seem to work like that.

I have spent the day in bed (no, I still don't have a bed, but you know what I mean). I am not properly sick, just a bit feeble, which is of course the very best state to be in for a day in bed. I have four big feathery pillows, one of those nice silky quilts in a pretty mid blue and all white bed linen. I have a Diptyque Feu de Bois candle burning, low, cheery lighting, a pile of good novels and endless pints of tea. The room is entirely clutter free and warm and it's freezing outside with odd flurries of snow, which only adds to the delight of being on the inside. The weepette is dozing alternately under the covers at my feet, or on top of the quilt within affectionate ear tugging distance. I have my little fire. It's all so perfect, like a bright sickroom scene from What Katy Did. All except me.

I am not a brave, bright eyed nineteenth century heroine, dying bravely and decorously. I am a strenuously 21st century hag with a minor cough, and I have been spoiling the idyll by alternately fidgeting around with my laptop and falling deeply, uncomfortably asleep in outlandish positions, to dream of financial emergencies and trying to dispose of corpses. After these naps I wake up wildly flailing and confused, drool all over my pillow, appalled to be awake and guilty for sleeping. I am rubbish at relaxing. Rubbish.

It hasn't mattered much though, because it's still the delicious badness of a skive. I have eaten a caramel tart in my bed, feeding the crusts to the weepette, read my silly novel and listened to Radio 4 plays. I haven't thought about transport logistics, unsold and unbought tickets, missing deliveries or missed deadlines. Or, rather, I have, but I have told myself not to. It will all still be there tomorrow.

Damn, I fell asleep again. I'm giving up on this. It is my day off after all.


Many of you - well, I can think of two, possibly three - expressed an unnatural interest in the salted almond cardamom fudge I mentioned several times over Christmas, as I inhaled it, barely pausing for breath and fighting off all attempts to force me to share. The genius creator of the Crackfudge, has very sweetly given me the recipe to share with you. Yeah, suck it up Gwyneth. I can do recipes too. Well, ok, strictly speaking I can't, but I can prevail upon people who can. Just like Gwyneth, in fact.

Here it is. Do not come complaining to me about the vagueness of the quantities and stuff, I do not care. Am I a cooking person? No, I am not. This is the recipe.


Fresh almonds in their overcoats

A big bag of cheap sugar

1 and a half to 2 cans of evaporated milk (NOT condensed)

Half a pack of salted butter (or unsalted doesn't matter) (125g)

A dessert spoon of large crystal sea salt or sel gris

Cardamom flavouring (you can buy in Indian or Chinese shops)

Toast almonds in oven until golden and vaguely rub off the skins.

Put sugar, milk and butter in a large thick bottomed steel pan and bring slowly to the boil stirring to stop too much sticking (although this is simply caramelisation). If you have sugar thermometer, boil it up until soft ball temperature.

Otherwise get a glass of cold water, and when it seems thick and lava like, drip some in. If you can make a nice round ball with what is in the glass, with your fingers then you are nearly there. Should be a rich golden brown. Boil for another minute or two and then draw off the fire, and cool for a little while.

Using a hand held electric beater (I used to use a wooden spoon but it can be exhausting) beat until the texture changes from toffee-gluey to faintly crystalline. Quickly beat in sea salt and cardamom essence, and stir in almonds. You can also use vanilla essence and pecans, or what you will.

Tip into an oiled roasting tin. Cut up before it becomes completely hard. Give it to people whom you wish to wrap in your wicked toils.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Talking to myself

This will either strike a chord or make me sound deranged. I think we all know which. File under: reasons never to meet me in person.

In my head I am Dorothy Parker. Wise cracking and fearless. I have brave, pithy conversations in front of the bathroom mirror, filled with wit and bravura. My head is filled with one-sided conversations in which I shine, brilliantly. I would love to meet Head Me. I would love to BE Head Me. She has all the good lines, all the smart comebacks. She can make a point. Head me wouldn't be flummoxed by dry cleaners. Living alone has made it worse, but I was always pretty prone; I have been led to understand that it can be an alarming thing for the other party who tries to have an actual conversation with you, when you have been arguing with them for the past half hour - and winning, needless to say - in your head. I live in my head, and it's terribly busy in there. It's why I write, I suppose.

There isn't a trace of Head Me when I actually open my mouth in the company of other human beings, needless to say. In the company of strangers I can barely manage a handful of strangled pleasantries. Then I blush, nuclear, teenage pink. I'm particularly bad at asking questions. Some inner dowager duchess, or possibly 18th century Japanese nobleman, thinks that it's indelicate to ask people questions. What if you put them on the spot? What if you inadvertently touch some nerve? OH THE EMBARASSMENT. I would have to throw myself on my sword if I accidentally asked someone something that made them uncomfortable. Thus I appear boorish and self-centred, because I can never work up the courage to, for instance, ask someone where they live (what if they just got evicted? What if they are homeless? What if what if what if?).

In more serious conversations, with people I know, particularly when I want to communicate something important, I tend to resort to going mute. There will be some perfectly formulated sentence in my head, that I have been honing and refining for hours. I will have brooded and practised it to perfection. But when the moment comes, and I am standing with the person in question, I will just stare, much like the brainless weepette does to me at 6 at point blank range every morning, willing them to mind read. There have been times when have quite literally felt words stick in my throat. If I can Just. Think. Harder... No. It never works. Noone can read my mind.

This is foremost in my mind at the moment, because the effortlessly gracious and kind Mrs Trefusis has invited me to a lovely party type event which will be huge fun. But at which I will have to speak to lots of strangers. Ask them questions. Put them at ease. Yeah. She is absolutely magnificent at this. I am like someone's surly teenage son in comparison. We have been musing today on what concentration, quantity and type of alcohol I will need to perform, without lapsing into gibbering incoherence. She favours whisky, I'm more inclined to vodka. Two of whatever it is will be plenty. I would really really like to prove to myself I am capable of this. What do you reckon? Can I do it? Or will she have to rescue me from a catatonic ball of shame on the floor of the ladies at the end of the evening? I'll tell you next week.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Performance anxiety

Oh man, the Bloggies are giving me acute performance anxiety (click that link and vote for me. I'll buy you a pony). You might not be able to tell with my general levels of sloppiness and indolence, but a secret perfectionist lurks within this slatternly exterior. I don't spend long writing blog posts, as a rule. It rarely tops an hour unless I'm uploading a shitload of photos. And I don't edit, generally spouting whatever I find sitting atop the fetid mass of thoughts in my brain, then waiting to see and correct typos once I press publish. But now? Yikes. I have nothing to say and what little I do deem acceptable I'm terrified of saying properly. There'm be strangers in our midst (I am saying that to myself in a Somerset village idiot accent). I don't feel I can just witter, but what else is there? You don't come here for incisive commentary on the news stories of the day, and thank nathan for that. I depend on my office mate for news stories, which makes for a somewhat idiosyncratic edit. Today's was largely to do with how the ostrich became flightless.

So. In the interests of continued regular posting, here I am, in abashed silence, trying to think what I can say. Hmm. Well, my house is very clean. You're glad you dropped by now, right? I have realised that in weeks without the children it's actually worth tidying because - watch out for the revelation here - the house. Stays. Tidy. Astonishing stuff. I come home in the evenings and there it all is, vast swathes of uncluttered floor (unless weepette has been having a particularly trying day). I'm oddly enthused by it, and have been renewing my fraught relationship with satan's pet. And the Swiffer. The Swiffer has taken on near mythical status for me since its appearance in Kiss and Ride. It's like a single person's talisman. Admittedly, I only found out yesterday how to make it longer, after my adoptive son shamed me into it. But I leave it draped around in the hope it will somehow make my how magically more Belgian and inspired.

Also, er, we went to the zoo yesterday. It was raining, and the spawn had to be cattle prodded to look up from Mario Carnage 8 for long enough to look at the animals, but it was An Outing. I felt more like a fit parent, having required them to leave the house. Lashes, within ten minutes of arrival, was done.

"Can we go now?"


"We've seen the reptiles. Can we go?"

"NO. Do you know how much it costs to go to the zoo? FIFTY euros"

He was momentarily impressed by this.

"So we're not leaving until cost per animal viewed is below 5 euros"

There was momentary silence as he calculated, reflected, something. Fingers and I strode ahead, intent on seeing how mossy Kai Mook has become after exposure to a Belgian winter. (answer: actually not very. They probably scrub him with Ajax and wire wool before the zoo opens every day). Eventually he scuttled up behind me.

"I have an idea. Let's go to the aquarium".

His logic was irresistible. We went to the aquarium. Twenty minutes later we were heading out of the zoo.

Yeah, that's all I've got for you. Sorry. I will try better, longer, harder tomorrow. In the meantime, have a red arsed monkey, the only thing to raise much enthusiasm yesterday.

Oh! And a bonus shot of the WAFFLE VAN parked right outside the gulag.

Welcome to Belgium!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Scenes from a Brussels Saturday

Belgium is never going to bend over backwards to make you love it. I mean, I know that. It doesn't really 'do' customer service, it's not particularly beautiful, and they have a weird endive fetish. But today has been a stunner.

1. I go to the drycleaners. They return me my jacket like so:

They are entirely unrepentant. "On a essayé, Madame" they say, we tried, their eyes challenging me to argue otherwise. They are on safe ground. I am a) British and b) PATHETIC. I pay. I enquire tentatively about a lost ticket, knowing that this will not end well for me.

"There's nothing we can do about that" says the girl.

"What, nothing at all? I've just lost hundreds of euros worth of sheets, you have no way at all of tracing them?"


"Oh. Ok".

2. After an inordinately long wait for my feckless friends at Taxi Bleu, we set off for Lashes's appointment with the knuckle-rapping handwriting gorgon. "Ah, Madame", says the taxi driver with ill-disguised satisfaction "Mais le bois est fermé!". OF COURSE IT IS. The fucking wood is always shut. They open it very occasionally in an arbitrary and mystifying fashion, perhaps something to do with phases of the moon, or messages from other galaxies. So we are late to the gorgon, who then takes it upon herself to tell me that I am insufficiently firm with Lashes. Oh, how I love unsolicited childrearing advice.

3. With misplaced optimism, I decide we will get a tram from the gorgon's into town. I realise the dubious wisdom of heading for Brussels's largest shopping centre on a rainy Saturday, but decide to go ahead, because by this point, going back home would be just as bad. We find a tram that purports to go there.

Forty minutes later we are in our fifth grey suburb.

"Where are we?" I mutter to myself, scanning the nine hundredth street full of grimy nineteenth century housing stock and kebab shops for any recognisable landmark.

"Petaouchnok" (a French nonsense word meaning 'in the arse end of nowhere') says Fingers, deadpan, not even looking up from Mario Carnage 8. He repeats this quietly to himself several times in the next hour.

4. We eventually disengorge into the sweaty underpass of "City 2" and spend a bewildering hour wandering around looking for various bits and pieces. Although all the bits and pieces are for them, the spawn are puzzled and overwhelmed by the seething mass of Belgiana, so everything takes five times longer than it should. Helpfully, Lashes leaves a plush panther in the furthest corner of the FNAC and we have to fight all the way back up the escalator of doom to get it. I top off the afternoon by queueing for ages in a shop behind a woman who is fulminating endlessly and with no apparent sense of discomfort about 'les noirs' and 'les turques'. Only exhaustion stops me kicking her in the shins.

5. We get another meandering, crowded, subterranean tram home. When it finally hits the surface it's raining, of course, and dark.

I remind myself several times how much I like Belgium.

And that my self-imposed January ban on travel is nearing an end.

Friday, 22 January 2010


So, I got nominated for the Bloggies by some freakish accident (thank you so much whoever nominated me), and now I am looking around here with a fresh eye in case of new visitors, lost and bewildered on their way to other, better blogs.

(New people, here is a nano blog synopsis: I am an English, female, 35 and living in Brussels, for reasons lost in the mists of antiquity, with my two children and idiotic dog. The cast of characters is here. I am recently separated from the CFO, who is a very nice man who likes tortoises. I have unhealthy relationships with the internet, money, Bonne Maman crème caramels and a craven need to please everyone. Very little of note ever happens, but sadly that does not stop me from blogging. I like shoes and whining and words. There are many many things I do not like , but if pressed, I would particularly single out the hoover for opproprium) .

God, so dusty! I had already taken off some of the more ancient photos that were going yellow down the bottom of the page after someone told me there were too many plastic toys on here. I note, for instance, that the Belgian pic of the week has not changed since November and that Prog Rock's reading list is even older than that. Given that the man averages 12 books a week, this is so out of date it's positively antediluvian. I will work on that. And let me have any ideas you have for making things prettier. Just, not today. (I am very lazy, new readers, promising much and delivering virtually nothing).

No. Today I will make outlandish promises for what I will do if you vote for me.

If I win, I hereby promise to make the weepette a Mexican Wrestling outfit.

You know I can do it:

Red children's tights come to mind as a good starting point. See? I have thought about this. I am going Mexican Wrestling next month. This is why the idea is once more foremost in my mind. There is Mexican Wrestling! In Brussels! I am making Monk come with me. She knows about Mexico. She got sent there after the Mexican ambassador took a shine to her, or something.

Other manifesto promises:

I promise to feature a regular post from the Brussels Metro 'Kiss and Ride' column of Belgian tragi-comic hilarity.

I promise to have a more balls in selecting what I write about (except things that might lose me my job).

I promise to become Prime Minister of Belgium.

Free speculoos for all.

And I will call my next pet Witloof. (FYI if I ever show signs of wishing to get another pet you may kill me, kill me stone dead).

And my next children will be called Jacques Brel and Johnny Halliday. Even if they are girls. (FYI if I ever show signs of wishing to have another child you must kill me even deader. I do not imagine this will be necessary. I have been disturbed 80000000 times at a conservative estimate since I started trying to write this, among other things, to provide Hula Hoops for a killer whale)

Noone has to eat their brussels sprouts and you can all stay up past your bedtimes.

Ok, I'm exhausted and slightly nauseated with all this self-promotion. Go and vote for me, please? Or not. That's fine too. Right, time for gin.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Bonus photo post

Someone was keen to see the pile of clothes on the mantelpiece. I do have other plans for today, but in the meantime, here it is. City Road! I wish I could do that inept annotating you are so fond of, but I don't know how on a Mac - if you show me how, more fugly annotated photo posts will follow.

If it were annotated I could point out:

1. An apparently seminal 3 volume set of Colloquies on the Enlightenment next to the large black photo album. Never read, from dark, history past that must be buried. A present from my mother's gay first husband.

2. The mattress that is taking up most of the room, but that is too heavy for me to even begin to think about moving it up to the spare room, and that I was too pathetic to ask the delivery guys to move for me. Planning on coming to visit? Hope you have your Health & Safety Lifting Certificate (bend those knees).

3. The woodcut print of London, and the one of Paris hiding behind it that are entirely India's fault. India is ruining women everywhere with her blog of outrageously desirable trifles. They are joining the already extensive collection of unframed stuff placed on high shelves to avoid dog damage. Other hard to spot items up there:

- several kilometres of Shinzi Katoh ribbon;

- an ineffectual anti-moth ball made from, I think, coffee beans;

- a photo of 'crazy era' me playing 'aeroplane' with Fingers, not having learned my lesson when the CFO dislocated Lashes's elbow doing the same;

- a lovely green clutch bag from Mimi in Cheshire Street that has lain untouched since it was used to stash/transport petits fours home from MF's beautiful Claridges wedding (2005? BMF?).

4. The top box is labelled, optimistically, 'useful clothes' (the bottom one, more idiosyncratically, says 'dad's keys are in here'). However useful they may be, they have not merited unpacking yet. Ha! Not so fucking useful now, are you?

5. Staining around the base of the mantlepiece where the stupid bastard dog decided to pee on my brand new fucking carpet. And still he lives!

Wow, this is boring. Sorry. Back later with thoughts around the theme 'what the fuck goes on in my children's heads'.

PS: M would like you also to note that my removal company was called "Coquibus". Thank you.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Confirmed: I look like a tramp

Someone offered Fingers a scarf this morning on the tram on the way to the gulag. A young, obviously appalled, woman, staring at his exposed neck. It was like having a baby again, and eliciting a chorus of shocked gasps whenever its bare head was momentarily exposed to The Hideous Dangers of A British Spring. Not only did she obviously think I was an unfit mother, but I think she might also have thought we were vagrants. It is just possible I may have been wearing my pyjamas at the time, and it is possible that they may have had a sort of giant bleached patch on the leg. It is also within the bounds of possibility that Fingers's head was covered with a range of sores, scabs and Speculoos spread. He is still sporting the ultra-short 'vermin deterrent special' haircut from the barber who looks like Junior Soprano. It might not be strictly the best ever look. Tramp chic for the under 8s.

This kind of thing used to happen all the time in Paris, where I routinely made the rookie error of thinking noone would care what I looked like to take my baby and 2 year old to the park. How wrong could I have been. On one memorable occasion a woman actually physically yanked my jeans up. I got regular comments on how bad I was looking, and was viewed with suspicion and distaste in the whole neighbourhood for daring to wear crappy Gap jeans and trainers. Before I could get my head around the imperative for dressing up, even to do battle with the hags in Monoprix, we moved back to East London, where I could perfectly well wander the streets in a ripped binbag without attracting attention. I have conserved this mindset in Brussels, not because it's similarly laissez-faire, but more because I really don't care. I'll happily dress up for work - over dress, frequently - but if to take a tram two stops to the gulag? I don't think so.

I wonder if I ought to revise my position? Is there some kind of happy medium between 'slept in a dumpster' and 'ambassadorial cocktail party'? I seem unable to find it. Since I'm not, no, absolutely not, shopping, I would have to dredge it up from the contents of my wardrobe. Not that I even have a wardrobe any more. I have three collapsing rails of decreasing fabulousness (Rail 1: all the very best black dresses on wooden hangers, with room to breathe. Rail 2: All the other acceptable dresses. Rail 3: Everything else I can possibly shove onto a rail, wire hangers, probably the world moth population and several soft toys), and a Pile. The Pile is on the mantlepiece, and might, quite probably contain things I could wear and not look like I am on my way to pick pockets on Rue Neuve, but I daren't disturb it, it might fall and crush me and I would be discovered weeks later with my face chewed off. The whole process is not aided by the fact that the lights have gone in the room, so I have no idea what, or where everything is most of the time. I have a ladder - she even has a name, Iris, carved into one of her rungs - but she is terribly rickety and 5 metres tall. Certain death awaits the waffle who tries to tame Iris alone. So I choose my clothes in semi-darkness and it shows.

The builders at the end of the street seem to follow my wardrobe schizophrenia - one day decaying skiing jacket/tracksuit bottoms/wellies/dog on piece of string; the next black shift/MaxMara coat of joy/teetering Prada shoeboots - with interest. I heard them commenting on my shoes last week "Ah! Des nouvelles! Celles-ci sont vertes!" (They were neither new nor green. Get a grip brickies). At least I am amusing someone, I suppose. I think I have one of those 'all or nothing' personalities they tell you about in therapy. Sadly, the percentage of nothing to all is about 90:10. Nothing is definitely the order of the day on a Wednesday: I sit before you in muddy Marks and Spencers patent ballet flats, mens stripy socks, dirty tracksuit bottoms and a child's outsized Boden hoodie. I smell of Mexican chicken, AGAIN. I am far from sure this is grown up behaviour.

Um. I think I have shamed myself into at least having a bath tonight.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010


I was mysteriously cheerful yesterday for the worst day of the year, as arbitrarily determined with pretend equations. The dog (when I write 'the dog', I have a clear vision of the the skool dog wearily trailing a string of skool sossidges behind it in Molesworth:

though in fact he has none of that world-weariness)

ate a packet of Kalgon tablets, or at least shredded them finely, scenting the house with a sort of tangy citrus urinal scent. Something lives longer with Kalgon.. Something starting with a W... Perhaps he was just testing. I found myself thinking of that Gary Larson cartoon where the scientists are testing various substances on a duck's back. Anyone? No? Well it's a group of scientists testing what substance runs off a duck's back (acid/milk/juice). Ok, shut up Emma.

My head is entirely empty at the moment, a whistling, empty mass of nothing. It's not specially unpleasant, but it's not conducive to blogging. Usually something to write presents itself in my head at some point during the day. Often on the tram. I wonder if it's because I've taken to listening to music on the tram? Maybe I need the ambient weirdness of the 92 tram to seep into my brain rather than listening to jangly guitars at a million decibels? I'm listening to the new Vampire Weekend album on a constant loop, alternating with M.I.A and The Jam and various Songs Of My Youth Mainly On Rough Trade. I've never done the ipod thing before (I'm not just a late adopter, I'm positively nineteenth century), so I am behaving like a caveperson, marvelling open-mouthed at fire. I think I might have to discipline myself to tune into the burbling lunatics of South Brussels again, since they are obviously my inspiration.

In the absence of more edifying things, I can tell you the following gurly rubbish, chiz chiz chiz:

1. I love my Nars Aigle Noir pencil. It's a big fat silvery grey soft eye pencil and it's called BLACK EAGLE. It's fierce. Ok, it's not actually proper fierce. It's make up, but I like it.

2. I have had to reconsider my position on Elle Macpherson. Well, her underwear, I still can't imagine she'd be up for Spread Eagle on Fossgate on Friday lunchtime for 23 G and Ts and a plate of chips. But! She does quite a good size range now, and I quite like my new bra, from Liberty sale. I wore it for the first time yesterday and it's buxom, but not matronly. Whereas today's Mimi Holliday, whilst very cute, is so uncomfortable I was fantasising about discreetly taking it off through my sleeve by around 3pm and maybe burning it discreetly in the wastepaper basket, doused in photocopier toner. Oh, you see, THIS is one of the reasons I am so stilted at the moment. My finger is hovering over delete. It's not just the lack of tram banter. I know so many people who are reading this now. People I actually see in real life. (Hi, Dad). It's terribly inhibiting. But equally, one of the things I liked about this blog was saying the things I didn't say out loud. I mean, come on. I used to write things like this! And this! And it was more fun, I think. I want to get back to not giving a shit what I write about but that seems oddly hard. Eh. Answers on a postcard.

3. Doctor Kevorkian Jr has given me these ridiculous shots of drinkable collagen for my knee. I was initially very excited about them, and kept expecting to wake up look dewy and pre-pubescent. No. I am still dried out, like an old, shedded snake skin. My knee still hates me. Fuck. I have got some new Lancôme serum recommended by lovely-Sali-who-knows-all-about-girl-stuff. I fully expect to wake up looking like a freshly hatched baby capybara tomorrow. No, maybe not quite so hairy and disapproving. Something smoother. An egg, perhaps?

4. I am reading this, this, this and this. I can't settle to any of them, even though I can tell that at any less brain-fevered time, I would have devoured each of them in half a day. I think I have moths in the brain. Maybe I should try eating Kalgon tablets?

I don't even know how to finish a post anymore. Maybe I just stop?

Ps: needless to say, no fucker has paid me to plug their products here, or even given me the teeniest free sample. I NEVER. EVER. get free stuff. Sob.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

Weekly Barrel Scrape, sorry, Review

I haven't done a weekly review for ages, so I'll give it a shot. See what dregs I can conjure up. I should warn you I am multitasking, half-heartedly trying to throw tennis balls for the weepette from my bed without hitting anything important. I have no cultural matters to opine on, and I have mainly eaten crème caramels or toast, so there won't be recipes (ha! Belgian Waffle recipes: Take bread. Toast. Butter. Eat. Remove Bonne Maman from fridge, remove foil top, eat.). I am impossibly, insanely lazy. January had better end soon before I meld into this mattress any further. I am fast becoming a formless white blob of bedding.


Drawing a blank here. Selective memory syndrome. Hang on, let me pull up the doubtless extensive gchat with brain twin... No, nothing. God this is like doing timesheets. I can tell you M made a Victoria Sponge and Hainanese chicken and that I discussed brainless corporate slogans with Mrs Trefusis. Sounds like a full and frank day.


Watched 24 with the CFO in the evening in a bizarre simulacrum of our previous life. Jack Bauer is looking good. The CFO is looking thin and I am looking lame. I mean, properly, physically lame, not just mentally lame as usual.


I am a crap, not terribly conscientious babysitter to my own children. Thankfully they are used to substandard parental care from me and we are at least rather delighted to see each other on a Papa week.


I go shopping. This is distinctly not allowed, but my tax rebate makes me reckless. I buy a Nespresso machine, signing myself up to their lunatic cult. I love it, guiltily, deliciously. It is cute, small, red and efficient and makes perfectly reasonable coffee. I no longer have to pass for a cultural simpleton, offering effete tea when workmen come round. I have coffee. Ouf. (I told you it wouldn't be up to much. This is the best I can do, OK?). I also buy new scent I am distinctly unsure about.

In the evening I go Out. This is sufficiently rare to be worthy of comment. We are aiming to go to Chez Maman, Brussels's premier transvestite lipsynching cabaret venue, but are aghast to find it shut. Instead we end up in a horrible, tiny dive enticingly called 'Homo Erectus'. There is some form of drag act, but the clientele are so compellingly horrible, it's more entertaining to watch them. Finally conceding defeat, we wander back through the Grand Place, sliding on the rain greased cobbles. It looks very pretty. I never see these bits of Brussels, on my rat runs from rainy Uccle to rainy office.


I am a little unwell (hem hem) and spend much of the day curled in a ball. However my FIRE arrives causing the weather to instantly warm up by 5°. I boil myself gently to death in my bed by not knowing how to turn the fire off.


After a dull, rainy, drudgery filled day I get to kick back and go into town in a daft dress and heels. I discover that Czechs eat coypus, which are, disturbingly, like baby Dr Capybaras, that Zurich has a burlesque scene, and that something about the combination of steak frites, gin and tonic and poultry themed bars makes me faint. I recover from my dorky fainting fit, gathering dust on the bar floor to rally Chez Maman, where dubious quality "travelottes" alternate with cheap and cheerful disco. There is approximately a square centimetre of space per patron. Cosy. It's a very late night full of gin and enormous but entertaining cloakroom queues.


Feeling delicate. I clear up dog related carnage in my nightie, cursing, and go to the Brasseries Georges with Prog Rock where the mere sight of steak frites makes me have a funny turn. He tells me about new poetry phenomena he has been reading about in Le Monde Diplomatique, one of which he claims is called "The Vroum Vroum" and involves falling downstairs. I am comprehensively puzzled. He is merciful and only starts one sentence with "In Eugene Onegin.." He even takes the weepette for a totter round the block for me. I go back to bed. The Catholics torment me and my lifestyle choices with constant drilling and the Jackson 5 (eh?).

Oh god, I've bored myself into submission. Go on, tell me about your week. Or better still, suggest a recipe. One that I can make from bed, ideally. Remember, I have FIRE.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Saturday in Uccle

I have to write a new post and quickly, because something terrible happened to the font on the last one and it's making me nauseous and nothing I try to do seems to make it better. Either that or I'm allergic to my own blog. It could be that. I want to get back to a more innocent time where I could be massively, unjustifiably rude about everyone because noone was actually reading. No, I'm being churlish. I don't want you all to go away. Stay! I'm just having a bad tempered day. I was woken at half 6 by the weepette, it now transpires, trying to tell me Lassie style that it had peed in about five places around the house. Urine treasure hunt, what a lovely way to start the day. Since then I have dragged Satan's pet* around the house with my usual mixture of trepidation and laziness, washed the floor hopelessly, been to the supermarket. It's been an unending whirl of solitary fun.

Actually the latter was the most depressing of all. Already in low spirits and further dampened by the usual 30 minute check out queue, I was standing just behind an old lady who was talking to the check out girl.

"As my pharmacist says" said the old lady, sagely, placing her small packet of Offal For One and single can of Jupiler on the conveyor belt with a trembling hand "Old age is like a shipwreck. And it comes sooner than you think. Oh yes, it comes so quickly. Quicker than you can imagine".

I have been in bits ever since this joyful announcement. I will grow old at massive speed in suburban Brussels, speaking only to an ever-narrowing round of pharmacists and shop assistants. The traditional January deluge has started too.

Oh, you wanted something uplifting? Sorry. I had a nice hot apple juice with grated ginger and a tiny lemon tart with Prog Rock at the Pain Quotidien today and played with my flamey-ass box of fire. I'm going out tonight to some, as my phone insists, "hay bars " with a bunch of people I've never met. I intend to be under-dressed and over-ginned as my northern heritage requires. It's the only way to get through this whole, imminent old age and rain thing. Will that do? No? Look at these fake dog balls then. Neuticles! Be extra sure to check out the merchandising section for your own pair of prosthetic dog testicle earrings. Thank you.

(*Thank you, Polish Chick, for my new favourite way to describe the hoover)

Friday, 15 January 2010

Kiss and Ride

I've been thinking recently that I never talk much about Belgium any more. Sorry, Belgium. I mean, that would be easily rectified if I made my long LONG overdue visit to the Commune. It's only a couple of hundred yards away and I could be plunged into the blogging gold absurdist netherworld of Belgian administration. I really should go, but I am a little under the weather (or insert your preferred euphemism for 'I drank too much gin last night' here).

Anyway. It's not that Belgium was ever the story of this blog, but I'm sure it used to be more prominent. It was a least a backdrop to the action, whereas now it hardly merits a mention. I think I've become so inured to its oddnesses that I barely think to mention them anymore. So! Let today be Belgium day! I dedicate Belgium Day to Al who I met yesterday who thinks Belgium is Satan's playground. Nothing he will read here is likely to change his mind, I fear.

This is a chocolate cauldron. No, I don't know why.

In particular, today is Kiss and Ride day. I am increasingly obsessed with the 'Kiss and Ride' column in Belgian Metro - the one where you can hopefully, optimistically, leave a message for the tweed clad gnome reading Lady Chatterley in Finnish on the 43 tram last Friday night. The Belgian version is an amazing mix of romantic, bathetic, ridiculous. The place names are always so terrible and the sentiment so intense. I couldn't even find my favourite, which wasn't a Lonely Heart at all, but more of a denunciation, and thundered something like "A Woman who drinks beer on the train with a man SHE KNOWS is married and even knows his wife's name! That's adultery in my eyes".

I am going to leave the French in (riddled with spelling mistakes, the lonely hearts aren't particularly literate) for the sheer poetry of it. Imagine thick Belgian accents when reading to yourself. I don't know if anyone else will find them as spellbinding and hilarious as I do. Probably not.

Elf Fetish

Depuis que je t'ai croisé à la gare de Binche en ce mercredi 14 janvier, je ne pense plus qu'à toi, tu as la beauté d'une elfe, les cheveux blond t'es un or parfait, j'éespère te revoir de toute impatience. Si tu veux discuté, viens me trouvé. Boris, le mec à la casquette blanche et noir et les chaussures noir et bleue.

Ever since I met you in Binche station Wednesday 14 January, I can't stop thinking about you, you are as beautiful as an elf, blonde hair, perfect gold. I'm impatient to see you again. If you want to talk, come and find me. Boris, the guy with black and white baseball cap and the black and blue shoes.

Biro rage

j'ai pu t'admirer durant mon allez et retour entre welkenraedt et liege ce mercredi 13. j'ai essayé de t adresser la parole mais en te demandant ton bic pour compléter mon campus j'ai cru que tu allais m'agresser...

I got to admire you on my round trip from Welkenraedt to Liege on Wednesday 13th. I tried to start a conversation by asking you for a biro but I thought you were going to attack me. Four coloured biro.


Je te voyais dans le reflet de la fenêtre; tu te balladais avec ton nouveau swiffer... contactes-moi. Seb

I could see your reflection in the window; you were travelling with your new Swiffer. Seb

Mouth spray

Ce matin, dans le train vers Liège-Guillemins partant à 7h29 de Saint-Ghislain, j'ai aperçu une très jolie fille assise au bout de la banquette me faisant façe. Je veux m'excuser auprès d'elle de nos réflexions concernant l'apparition d'une odeur qui venait apparemment de son spray bucal. Je ne savais pas que l'odeur provenant de là...

This mornin in the train to Liege-Guillemins, leaving at 7h29 from Saint-Ghislain I spotted a very pretty girl sitting on the end of the seat opposite. I want to apologise for our remarks about the smell, which apparently came from her mouth spray. I didn't know that was where the smell was coming from...

The girl from the butchers

Tu t'appelles Laure, tu travailles à la boucherie de LLN et tu as bouleversé ma vie. Jamais une fille ne m'avait troublée comme tu le fais. . Je ne veux rien de toi, je n'ai rien à te donner et j'ai trop peur de ce que tu pourrais me donner. Je me contenterai juste de continuer à te sourire en venant chercher mon sandwich quotidien.

Your name is Laure, you work at the LLN butchers shop and you have turned my life upside down. I have never been as obsessed by a girl as I am by you. I want nothing from you, I have nothing to give and I'm scared of what you might give me (eds note: I don't think that is supposed to evoke STDs). I'll be happy to keep on smiling at you when I come to get my daily sandwich.


Michel, tu es notre rayon de soleil ... Tous les matins, dans le train, nous attendons impatiement d'arriver à la gare de Basse Wavre et espérons te voir, les cheveux aux vents sur le quai ! Un trajet sans toi, c'est comme une frite sans mayonnaise ! Les filles du train.

Michel, you are our ray of sunshine. Every morning in the train we wait impatiently to get to Basse Wavre in the hope of seeing you, hair in the wind, on the platform. A journey without you is like a chip without mayonnaise. The girls on the train.

All the way to BRUSSELS

O toi, belle brune que je croise tous les jours dans le Ottignies-Genval de 16h52! Tu illumines mes journées de ton rire mythique et de tes ragots irrésistibles. Quand je t'ai vu avec tes lunettes bleues, ton sac à main, tes petits talons, j'ai véritablement craqué : j'ai un faible pour les touristes... Si tu aimes en effet voyager, alors viens jusqu'à Bruxelles avec moi. Je porterais un hat et une rose à mon coeur pour que tu puisses mieux me reconnaitre...

Oh, beautiful brunette that I see every day in the 16h52 Ottignies-Genval! You brighten my day with your famous laugh and your irresistible gossip. When I saw your blue glasses, your handbag, your low heels, I completely fell for you. I have a weakness for tourists... If you like to travel, then come all the way to Brussels with me.

(Eds note: provincial Belgians believe Brussels to be very very very far away and a den of VICE).


Je suis littéralement tombé en arrêt devant votre beauté, vous qui reliez Bruxelles à Liège-Guillemins, parfois en compagnie de Reinhardt K. Hier, je ne pouvais détacher mes yeux de votre visage et de votre buste. Vous blonde en pull blanc, sac taché de jus d'orange, vous portiez des lunettes que vous avez enlevé pour la navette et que vous avez remiseqs pour descendre à Liège-Guillemins. Malgré les vingt-deux minutes de retard du train, vous avez écourté ma navette, car nous étions visiblement aussi nerveux l'un que l'autre. Je vous en remercie, et à bientôt en compagnie de mon collègue Reinhardt K.

I was literally brought to a halt by your beauty, you who travels from Bruxelles to Liège-Guillemins, sometimes with Reinhardt K. (Eds note: I assume this is a book). Yesterday I couldn't take my eyes off your face and your bust (Eds note: pleasing honesty). You: blonde, white jumper, handbag stained with orange juice. You were wearing glasses but you took them off on the train and put them back on to get off at Liège-Guillemins. Despite the 22 minute delay, you made my journey shorter, since we were obviously as nervous as each other. Thank you, and I hope to see you again soon with my colleague Reinhardt K.

Ah, Belgium. Land of endive, dough chip van queue stabbings. Land where the Post Office runs out of stamps. (Monk saw this with her very own eyes today). And now, land of Romance.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

New normal

I am babysitting my own children in my old house. I have been here since last night, as the CFO had to go to London at 5am this morning. The sofa is no more comfortable than it used to be, I note. Ouch. Slithery unyielding bastard, how I do not miss you. I have backache already.

The whole thing is profoundly strange, an odd mixture of mundane and unnerving. I don't even know whether to ring the doorbell when I arrive (I do). Do I answer the phone? Empty the dishwasher? Borrow a pair of socks? However 'fine' we are - and truly we are, as fine as we could be - there are sore patches, tendernesses. We don't want to stamp on each other's toes. So we are cautious, a little over-polite. We talk about work and watch tv. The house looks the same, barring a few holes where I have taken things. It's a lot tidier than it used to be.

The dog, who has accompanied me, is plainly puzzled and wanders around whining neurotically, his big liquid eyes straining to understand.

"Do you think he remembers me?" asks the CFO curiously as the dog stares pleadingly at him from short range, whimpering insistently.

"Oh yes, definitely. He's stupid, but he's not actually brain dead. He's just trying to understand why he's here".

The CFO cuffs the dog affectionately around the ears, alpha dog style.


It continues to stare at him, a wide-eyed, troubled stare. 'Do I live here now? I can love you and blindly obey you if you wish me to' the stare seems to say.

The dog never stares at me like this. Actually, it has taken to climbing all over me as I lie on the Ektorp or in bed, like a slightly pointless and boring obstacle. It drinks from my water glass and tries to tread on my laptop.

The children are a lot more relaxed, because they are Prepared. They measure time out carefully and they like to know, to the minute, who will be where, when, how. So they are waiting, serenely for me. Initially they barely look up, though Fingers does discreetly place himself very very close to me as I read them a story, hiding one hand in my pocket. Throughout the day I get the odd proprietary stroke. I snatch a few extra kisses to keep us both going until Monday. They both double check timings with me.

"So you're here today?"


"But not tomorrow"

"That's right. And I'll see you again on Monday which is only 4 sleeps".

They relax and ignore me for much of the evening. Even the dog finally finds a chair it considers acceptable and curls into a tight ball to sleep.

He's back in ten minutes or so, and I'll head home, gather up my stuff like the babysitter, walk back to my house. It's strange, strange for all of us. But I think we're doing ok.

On SSRIs and their absence

I haven't taken anti-depressants for, what, 2 months now? Wow. After 4 years, I didn't think this day would ever come. I remember telling my sister with great assurance only a year or so ago that they would "have to prise them out of my cold, dead hands". I truly believed I wasn't quite a whole person without them.

Let us be clear. I love anti-depressants like a family member and am very much in favour of prescription medication. I am not of the hippy, twig chewing school of medicine. No, I would not like a tincture of arnica for my broken leg, thank you. Anti-depressants - I have already said this, but it bears saying again - got me my degree. I was barely functioning without them. With them, I could sit still and calm for three hours and scrape the recesses of my memory for any shreds of 18th century history that might have lodged there during the previous year of weeping in corridors and sleeping 16 hours a day. More importantly, in 2005 when I was completely flipping out, they allowed me to look after my children, to communicate with those around me and to manage emotions that were really frightening me. The effect was dramatic, and salutory.

Clearly it is your right on a public weblog to weigh in and tell me that anti-depressants are a really bad trip, man and what I really needed was herbs and exercise and B vitamins. I promise not to mock. In any case, I will be too busy chopping myself up a little cocktail of Belgian pain medication to snort off the weepette's buttocks (Needs must. Sinclair has not yet made himself available to me for these purposes despite being top of my New Year's resolutions list. I am mystified by this oversight).

But. After accidentally running out again, and dealing with all the amusing side effects, I realised I wasn't feeling particularly compelled to start taking them again. So I haven't. And really, I can't say I have particularly noticed the difference. Possibly the short patches of time when I feel like I can't cope are marginally more intense? Maybe I am slightly more impatient? Hard to tell, I am still madly impatient at the best of times presently; everything has to happen yesterday. But there has been nothing frightening, or unmanageable. This is absolutely not the story of my triumph over psychotropic medication. I feel relatively sure there will be times in the future when I will need it again and when I do, I will take it with no sense of failure. But it has challenged my long-held belief that I am a nicer, more socially capable, more articulate person with anti-depressants. So far, I haven't morphed into a socially paralysed hermit. Any residual awkwardness is easily overcome with alcohol anyway! Marvellous.

I will not say anymore for fear of waking up tomorrow in black, sobbing despair, unable to speak or move, but it seemed like something worth noting.

Monday, 11 January 2010


I am entirely devoid of interest tonight. I spent the day sitting shivering, whippet like, at my desk in my coat with a cat's arse face, on the very edge of being sick (Belgoknee drugs. So good, so unkind to one's stomach lining). Very fetching, very good company. I shouldn't bother blogging, since I have nothing whatsoever to say. However! If only that stopped me. I tried to work out what on earth I had been doing today. This was all I came up with. Sorry. I seem to believe I have to commit something to the page, however unedifying.

Topics of conversation* in the throbbing centre of Belgium today:

Belgian serial killers
- Their existence and arrest
- Are there in fact enough people in Belgium to merit a serial killer? Can you really be a serial killer in Belgium when there are so few people to kill? Tangentially, how come Belgians are good at tennis?

Siamese slankets
Unlikely to lead to a fulfilling lovelife. And not just because of the high likelihood of static electric shocks.

The speaking voice of a walnut.
Somerset? Or more Dorset? Interestingly (I use this word extremely loosely), this conversation started in September.

Mechanical and electrical graphite, versus Monochloroacetic Acid.
This, my friends, is the day job. Czech colleague and I were very politely NOT squabbling about which of these would be more fun. We are so reasonable.**

CEO (not to be confused with the CFO) sex
Whether my friend's employer would be terrible in bed. Conclusion: yes. Due to his air of vague, not entirely comprehensible menace and poor communication skills.

Bizarre, inexplicable Twitter friendships
I can't be more specific.

Is a Nespresso machine very wrong?
Particularly if you haven't seen your phone bill from Christmas yet? How can you present it to yourself so it sounds less wrong, and more like a dull but essential household necessity?

Liza Minelli's knee
If she has a new one, why can't I?

Christine Lagarde/Patty Hewes

Whether the French Finance minister was the model for Glenn Close's character in Damages.

Christine Lagarde:

(and incidentally, isn't that a terrifying picture? Like one of those iconic, folk art portraits of Stalin. She's glowing with Sarkozist virtue)

Patty Hewes:

(Health Warning: The law is not like Damages. You will spend several years in windowless rooms with dusty boxes of documents fighting other interns for the biscuits. Noone will send you to Bloomingdales with a blank cheque to buy clothes. Thank you. )

The mysterious bodysnatching properties of my mattress

Whoops there goes any semblance of a life I might have been starting to muster, eaten by a rectangle of foam.

Northern girls

My assistant is from Nottingham, I am from York. She sent me this, and we marvelled, reverently, respectfully, over it.

What have you been talking about today? Anything more exciting than me?

*Obviously I use this term loosely as most of the people I converse with live in the computer.

** They are as bad as each other. No need to fight.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Art Interlude

My delighful elder son decided to do portraits of us all today. Just, as monsters.

First, himself. He was insistent he needed the atomic energy symbol. And his Nintendo, of course.

Next, his younger brother. This one makes me laugh.

"Why doesn't he have any eyes, Lashes?"

"He's a mante religieuse (praying mantis). The female eats the male after they make babies". Oh yes, that would explain it. ?

A praying mantis with a Nintendo DS. Of course.

This one is largely self-explanatory, and I thought, rather charming. I wonder if the weepette would be easier to love with fangs like that? (dog welfare watchers will be glad to hear has been some degree of rapprochement between weepette and myself today, thanks to the absence of furtive pools of wee all over the house).

And here I am, one eyed, red clawed, permanently attached to my laptop. I think this is rather a flattering portrait. I didn't get a catchphrase, for some reason and it's probably a mercy. If I had I imagine it would have been either "give me two minutes" or "JESUS!".

They were lovely this weekend, despite the punishing weather and my crappy, incapacitated leg and general lack of zen acceptance of everything. For the last hour or so, we have been lying in my bed and they have been holding their warm, slightly sticky fingers over my eyes for sections of 'Up' they deemed unsuitable for me. It was really, really lovely.

Saturday, 9 January 2010


Mr Houser has memed me. It's Saturday, I didn't blog yesterday, I've been 99% whine for days, I think the least I can do is find 10 facts about me you haven't already heard, and recommend some new blogs. I have done this 'Ten things' meme twice already I realise, but I themed it both times. This will just be bargain basement factoids.

1. I am kryptonite to all forms of jewellery and watches. I have broken: my non-engagement ring (diamond fell out, we searched for it all day in Violet's flat, it turned up in Lashes's shoe), my mum's engagement ring (emerald fell out, never found again), my Baume & Mercier birthday watch, my mum's amethyst earring, lost my diamond birthday bracelet somewhere between Reiss and Fenwicks. Kryptonite effect is not limited to expensive stuff, I can break Swatches, cheap charm bracelets, even cracker rings. It's magical. Never buy me jewellery (I can tell you were planning to).

2. My first boyfriend was called Danny Melusi. We were 13. He was American and thus exotic, blonde and blue eyed and did not have a Yaaarkshire accent. Unfortunately he was also extremely boring and a bit stupid. We got together at the school disco, me resplendent in Miss Selfridge polka dot skirt with a giant tulle underskirt and Warehouse vest top. Him, I have no idea. The minute I had inveigled him into asking me out I started to look for ways out of it. I had no desire to actually go out with him, it was more the idea. I chucked him after the Christmas holidays via the good old, note in locker method. This was a pattern repeated with all other school boyfriends.

3. I made my own packed lunches for school from the age of 8. They were identical every day - ham sandwich, cucumber slices, 4 cubes of jelly, Club biscuit. At secondary school this was replaced by iceberg lettuce sandwich on white sliced Mother's Pride for 7 years. Nice.

4. I played the clarinet for years. I was shite and hated it. My teacher looked more like a troll than any human ever born but kindly persevered even though she must have been dying inside every time I tongued a note (yes, that is the terminology. Gross, no?). I did get to play in Quaker school windband, which was a hotbed of dweeby lust. We were appallingly awful. So, SO unbelievably bad. But I dated both a clarinet and a French horn player, both incredibly acned. I didn't hate the piano so much, apart from the enforced trimming of fingerclaws, but I was pretty shite at that too. I was actually very good at singing. I nourish a secret desire to go to karaoke and have never been.

5. I am 35 and have never been to America.

6. Strange places I have sat down and wept: a traffic island on Wigmore Street, the Batignolles organic vegetable market, Foss Islands Road in York outside Halfords, Beckenham Junction station. Hmm, I can't think of many in Brussels, I realise. The 92 tram stop, of course (Beaux-Arts, usually with impotent rage at lack of trams). I do like a bit of alfresco wailing. The more incongruous the better. I think I always hope a handsome stranger will offer me a starched handkerchief. Thus far noone has, though I do often get to hear about elderly ladies' deceased husbands, for some reason.

7. I don't think I've ever been on a date. Well, maybe one with the CFO circa 1993, if getting drunk at his house and going to the midnight showing of Aladdin can possibly count. But I moved in with him the next day, pretty much.

8. After years of intense phobia, I discovered I actually love general anaesthetic. It's fucking great. Peaceful. I think I could be quite the hypochondriac in later life. I have had a surprising amount of medical stuff for someone of my age and I always secretly enjoy it on some weird level. It's the attention. I will be one of those elderly ladies who is ALWAYS down the surgery with some complaint or another just for the balm of 20 minutes of the doctor's company.

9. I have really long esprit d'escalier conversations with people (or more honestly usually the same person. I do hope it stops soon, I am bored of it). Out loud. Usually in the bathroom because they seem to require a mirror. I am extremely pithy and brave during these conversations in a way I never am in reality. In person I mumble inarticulately or go terribly Celia Johnson, clipped and exquisitely polite, whilst trembling with suppressed emotion.

10. Between the ages of 21 and 30 I didn't drink alcohol and convinced myself I didn't like chocolate. Ha!

Now some new blogs to highlight, or nominate. I still love all the ones I always did, still in the blogroll, still read and adored, but as previous meme-ees have done, I am choosing ones you might not have read.


Gina at Yonder Paw. Gina makes me laugh. She tells good jokes. And she might just be able to arrange to have someone killed for me, but sssh.

Un vieux vélo - The other half of my brain blogs here, weirdo bike perv that she is. However she is able to make even a bicycle entertain me. I fucking hate bikes but I read her pervy bike blog.

My next choice is dormant but I hope to galvanise her into writing again. Camel Barn Library. Read her twitter stream and you will see why. She's not short of material.

I'm rather fond of Indigo Alison too. A lovely mix of things that rather interest me, good photos and some slices of her life.

Tired Dad is magnificent, but would rather eviscerate himself with a picnic fork than do a meme. You should read him anyway though.

W1Mum is another good mix of stuff. I've just read her most recent thing about the sex text and I'm still snickering to myself. Also, she lives with her baby about a hundred yards from where I lived with my baby back in 2002 so it makes me mushy and nostalgic.

Red Fox. She is the only person whose little green gmail light is on as much as mine. I like her.

There are probably many more, but I am flagging. A weekend snowed in, to all practical purposes, with two small boys and a newly incontinent dog is kicking my ass in all manner of ways. We're only halfway through and I've shelled out 100 euros on new books and DVDs, screamed like a fishwife, eaten whole meals of cake and Nurofen and watched Boule et Bill until my brain ran out of my nostrils.