Saturday, 21 August 2010

Return of the Semi-native

Well. We got home, eventually. I only fully appreciated how stressful the journey was half an hour ago when I tried to bite into a baguette and nearly fell over with jaw pain. I obviously kept mine either clenched or grinding for most of the last 24 hours. The car looks like a landfill site and the dog has the haunted expression of one who has seen terrible things and will never be the same again. Admittedly, he always wears that expression and slept angelically the whole time, but you know, artistic licence and all. After the fourth hour stationary in Erpe-Mère, exit 18 of the E40, last night, it was hard not to feel a little slighted by Belgium. 'Welcome back, sucker, now sit in this traffic jam we have cleverly created by deciding to do elaborate, credulity-defyingly slow roadworks on a busy Friday night in August. Alstublieft". It's not personal though, Belgium just doesn't like to be too welcoming for fear of being overrun by chicory lovers. I get that. And let me momentarily focus on my achievements: I did not get lost ONCE for the whole journey. And the only time I cried was entirely incidental to the fear/driving/lunacy/traffic jams. It was only bloody Joni Mitchell. That devious hippy bitch is always ambushing me.

The spawn are with their father and I am trying to focus on the peace, and the potential for small naps and large drinks, rather than the lack of small warm bodies to hold onto. I should probably deal with the house. It's .. well. It's indescribable. To say the floor needs washing is a bit like saying the Forth Bridge might need a lick of paint now and then. There's something in a glass that might once have been a lemon that's terrifying me and the whole place smells of cheap cleaning fluid, damp and dead things. It needs about a week of tidying. So do I actually. I looked in the mirror this morning and found I had a piece of melted chocolate the size of a 5p piece stuck to my forehead. It had probably been there for days. And the freckles! Fuck. I've just had a look, and they're horrific, I look like I have some kind of Biblical dreaded skin disease. I'm not anti-freckle on the right face. My sister, the Space Cadette wears a freckle (I feel it needs the fashion singular) with great aplomb. But mine is not the right face. I might not be able to leave the house for a few months, which would, conveniently, be about the right amount of time to restore the house to something that won't attract the attention of social services. The 'garden' might take longer. I think it's developed consciousness in my absence and it's coming to get me. I really must tackle it. My shopping list includes things like giant extension leads and special strimmer string. It's not a life I ever thought I'd have, I must say, but I'm making what I can of it.

I am going to try and kickstart one of my micro-phases of relentless positivity after the weeping and terror of the holidays, starting with the reasons it is good to be back in Belgiana:

1. It is 27°C today and tomorrow. I can perch on the rickety stool in the shade in the "garden" fearfully shunning the fiery ball (the words shut, stable door, horse, bolted come unbidden to mind).

2. My quartier really does have the best food shops imaginable. I have become quite sniffy about Belgian food, what with the crap croissants and the mysterious variants on grey meat in fritkots, but if you can be arsed with raw ingredients (as you are well aware, I most certainly can't be 99% of the time), they are really excellent. I went out and bought a chèvre frais (the cheese rather than the actual goat, sadly), a sourdough baguette, a bunch of muscat grapes, two mutant 'cornu' tomatoes, a Charentais melon, some San Daniele and a stuffed pepper, all within two minutes of my house. I didn't even venture as far as the superlative deli or the butchers. Wow, imagine how slappably smug I would be if I actually gave a toss about food. I kind of hate myself already.

3. I have the car for a couple more weeks so I can go to my favourite place in the whole of Belgiana, the Parc Paradisio with its celebrated (by me) escaping capybaras. Or I could go to Animals Express, Belgium's most ethically dodgy retail outlet, and buy myself an owl. Or a wallaby.

4. It looks like bow-tied, ideologically sound fop, Elio di Rupo may manage to form a government. I am being premature, obviously. A speck of dust may fly the wrong way around the Flemish parliament casting everything back into chaos.

5. Erm. Look how busy the park is today!





That's midday. On a sunny Saturday. Looks like Belgium's policy of discouraging visitors through the medium of lane closures is working. If you look very closely you can see the weepette about to roll in fox shit, then lie in a fetid pool of mud, thus making my day extra special.

6. No, there is one more good thing. I am on my way to Colruyt, the supermarket of Belgo discount weirdness, and I am planning to prepare a photo tour. If you have particular questions on how to shop in a Belgian discount store famed for its bureaucratic meat counter, please place them in the comments.

14 comments:

Sara Padrusch said...

International bargain shopping! How wonderful! I will take pictures of frightening thrift shops here in America for you and pay special attention to any scurrying rodents I spot.

In other news, my dog rolled in a dead squirrel today. Perhaps she and the weepete are waging a conspiracy towards driving their hapless owners mad.

Sara
www.shinyredhouses.blogspot.com

IsabelleAnne said...

So much admiration for your driving all that way. Talk about facing your fears!! And as usual, another fine, funny, meaningful post. Your description of weepette's expression: laugh out loud funny. Thanks for that,I needed it.

redfox said...

Speaking of dogs with haunted expressions, have you seen this animated gif? If not, you certainly should.

Brooke Harper said...

Wow, the emptiness of the park is alarming! The parks in NC are never empty. Seriously - go to a park in North Carolina at 3am and you'll probably find about 40 kids running riot around the fields!

Alison Cross said...

Even here in Scotland where our default weather setting is 'horizontal rain' we have more people in our parks.

They might be drinking methylated spirits and milk, but STILL....

Glad you got home ok :-)

Ali xxx

Z said...

The worst thing my dog ever rolled in was donkey stallion (or should that be stallion donkey) urine in the spring when the donkey, whose name was HUmperdinck, was at his friskiest. It even beat the rotting fish that was the speciality of the dogs of my childhood. Nothing would eliminate it and it just had to wear off on to the sofa. The dog liked to lie, leopard style, along the top of the sofa, just at human nose level.

Margaret said...

I thought that park was a golf course. Congratulations on surviving holiday traffic with nothing more than a little jaw pain! I'm curious, is all of Europe a traffic jam for the entire month of August?

I missed you! When are you and M going to get back to Face Goop? I need her to road test the Garnier Fructis Blow Dry Perfector system. I guess I could try it myself, because it's only like 12 bucks for the thing and Lord knows I have nothing but time and vanity on my hands, but I would much rather read about M trying it. Also, I hear it smells like shit. I don't mean metaphorically, I mean I have read that it smells like actual fecal matter, the kind that capuchin monkeys fling around. So, wash your damn floors and get back to reviewing makeup!

irretrievablybroken said...

Welcome back! I, too, have returned home to face mess, overgrowth, dead things in shrubbery, earnestly planted vegetables now dead from lack of water, unpaid bills, appliances beeping mysteriously and showing error codes, terrifying number of messages on the answering machine (which is FULL, which means calls have gone to voicemail, which I have avoided for six months at least), ivy destroying the front door and harboring spiders, an off smell in the icebox (the whole kitchen, in fact), and no children. So far I have not ventured up to the second or third floors. Nor down to the basement.

Home sweet home.

Courage!

Em said...

Welcome home - and well done for extracting yourself from the steering wheel.

What is a bureaucratic meat counter? Is this typical to Belgium? So much to learn...

Nellig said...

Yes! I need to know how to shop at Colruyt. Just in case. The embarrassment caused by gaffes in foreign shops can leave permanent scars.

Even back home, it took me a while to figure out how Starbucks works, and I never did get to grips with Argos.

By comparison, Japanese supermarkets are a breeze. They have these brilliant double tills so they can start ringing up the next person's groceries while you're still fumbling with your change. Imagine!

And what a comedown when I have to go back to shopping in the UK Co-Op next Weds.

Laura and Ben said...

Oh dear... the roadworks that cover half of Flanders...

I get caught out by them every time and sit outside Ghent for hours on a Sunday night. They have answered my question regarding what Belgians actually do on a Sunday - sit outside Ghent for hours on end, waiting with unusual patience - nobody beeped and only three people drove off up the hard shoulder.

L. said...

You had me at "bureaucratic meat counter." Please elaborate further.

Welcome home! Even though it means coming back to dirt and chaos and work slavery, I don't know, it's still home and in a way it is reassuring. I hope, once you have cleaned, you enjoy some micro-optimism and feel a little cozy.

Also, I hate you for linking me to that garden path cashmere blanket. How I wish. Of course my 15-mo daughter would cover it in cream cheese in five minutes.

paola said...

"bureaucratic meat counter": brlliant and spot on. I can finally put into words why I hate shopping there and only go for seriously bulk buying cleaning products. And pasta, I am addicted to "Agnesi" pasta.

Eireann said...

I was in that very traffic jam, on the way from Ghent to Brussels. Our flight was at 11 a.m.; we were in traffic til 3 a.m. Oy.