Sunday, 31 October 2010

In which I announce a change of editorial policy

I am just about reaching the point where I am boring myself stupid with my own weepiness (I'm sure it's terrible for my skin too). Where is my stiff upper lip? Has its structural integrity been compromised by the creeping march of cat's arse wrinkles around my mouth? I want to be one of those terribly terribly brave, Celia Johnson type English women for whom any cataclysm, tragedy or mortal illness is merely 'terribly boring' or 'such a nuisance'. With the aim, then, of getting myself to shape up like an Empire builder, I am thinking of introducing some kind of punishment system: one crying jag equals one task from the evil "Admin" to do list that must be completed. Do you think this would work? It's aversion therapy with fringe benefits or something.

I also think this blog needs to be more outward looking, less mopily introspective. Going forward (for at least, oooh two days) I will be focussing on the fascinating, contradictory country in which I live. Are you afraid? You should be.

What does this mean concretely? Well, today it means more photos of peculiar, often alarming crap from the fleamarket on Place du Jeu de Balle.

I have lived in Belgium too long when I look at this monstrosity and go "Oh look! Un Gilles de Binche!"

instead of running in the opposite direction, screaming.

There was a definite feathery theme today.

"That's a serial killer duck" M said, when I showed her this picture. "Look at its eyes. All those other ducks are dead".

This is one of those peculiar types of chicken the Duchess of Devonshire would know about. Though I can't imagine she'd approve of it ending up here.

This, however, is beyond explanation:

But it's ok, because look, here's a photo of spectacularly rubbish Belgian politician, Yves Leterme, holding a baby goat.

Further investigation (my policy of outward looking blogging is already bearing fruit) reveals that he was GIVEN two baby goats at the 'Foire de Libramont' by the Walloon Agriculture Minister, M. Lutgen, of whom I now thoroughly approve (even though he looks like a young Leland Palmer). Also, it turns out Yves Leterme was already a goat owner! I already feel more warm and fuzzy towards him, even though he is the prime minister who famously failed to remember his own national anthem when asked to sing it among many other, darker misdemeanours. Actually, the further I investigate, the more compelling this story becomes, Yves Leterme seems to be given goats regularly. Is this a perk of the Belgian premiership? Inquiring minds need to know.

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Brussels Saturday Round Up

I've gone a bit fetishy about food in the last few weeks. It's classic displacement spending, food being far cheaper than all the things I really want to buy. It's "Paris Syndrome". I only bought two Petit Bateau t-shirts in a year living in Paris, but I bought an elaborate cake every bloody day. It's false economy and it's making me fat, but who cares, the winter is coming and I have no plans to leave the house ever again except to buy more cake.

So today I:

1. Took a trip to the Asian supermarket by the Bourse - yes, the one that got closed down by the health inspectorate for vermin infestation, ssssh I don't need to know - for spices and chana dahl and bunches of coriander. I am planning a giant vat of dahl ("half butter, half roasted garlic, half lentil" said M, with an accurate, if Apprentice-esque grasp of percentages) to offset the giant cakes and further my plan of never leaving the house again.

2. Stopped off at Marcolini on the way home in the rain for a hot chocolate. For €2,10 you get chocolate poisoning, combined with a sense of faint superiority because it is high quality chocolate poisoning AND two tiny but surprisingly delicious speculoos. Unfortunately I also got carried away and bought a vanilla éclair. It looked so pretty.

3. Checked out Brussels's first - I think - cupcake bakery, only, what, 8 years after the rest of the Western world? It was quite sweet, but it smells of imminent bankruptcy to me. I mean, surely we are all cupcake weary and broke, aren't we? Who's paying €3,20 for a cupcake at the moment?

Me apparently. But I'm calling it research.

Yes, my thumb nail is dirty. At least it's not green any more.

I chose almond, lemon and raspberry. I was predisposed to despise it, because of my galloping envy of cupcake bakery owners, but apart from the frosting, it was pretty good.

I also went to Lidl in search of B's mythic €3 Cava. It had quite the festive atmosphere on a Saturday afternoon, like an early cocktail hour. About half my local store seems to be devoted to wine, which I endorse wholeheartedly. The rest was discounted biscuits and toothpaste, all handy, if of limited usefulness for cooking purposes.

There were other compensations on my walk, including these strange owls:

This tiny boar:

And this brilliant display in the window of my favourite bonkers taxidermy and stuff - in - domes shop:

He also had a selection of nicely mounted glass eyeballs:

I feel like these should be the perfect gift for someone, but I haven't worked out who yet.

This mural, in Louise metro, remains a source of great puzzlement to me.

Can anyone throw any light? Or just make up something plausible? I don't like that goat's expression.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Halloween, Uccle Style

Oh, Halloween in Uccle. It's all so, so, WRONG.

One can only try and imagine the diktat on Halloween decorations circulated by the local Ucclois authorities.

"Each shop, regardless of type or nature or merchandise, must display one single, large, undecorated pumpkin"

"The uglier the pumpkin, the larger the Halloween tax rebate".

I was hard pressed to choose a favourite - I quite like the Starsky & Hutch cardigan in the ancient gentlemen's outfitters with its companion pumpkin, but in the end, the leopardskin bikini 'n' pumpkin combo just edged it.

It doesn't get any better when they go hors-piste, sadly.

Though this chocolate squirrel does, at least, have intense ecureuilian (yes, I invented that word, and frankly, I'm proud of it) malevolence:

Incidentally, one must wonder, who the fuck pays €8,50 for three small, morose, marzipan pumpkins? Even at my most Marie-Antoinetteish, I wouldn't have done that.

There may be more in this vein, I am becoming obsessed. You are warned.

Toujours gai

Everything is fine. I take comfort, as ever, in the Song of Mehitabel:

i know that i am bound
for a journey down the sound
in the midst of a refuse mound
but wotthehell wotthehell
oh i should worry and fret
death and i will coquette
there s a dance in the old dame yet
toujours gai toujours gai

Admittedly, yesterday wasn't the most intelligent day to go and collect my cardboard box of grubby coffee cups, pulp novels and plastic forks from the office, but inspired misscheduling is becoming a theme this autumn, so it was to be expected. Anyway, most of the crying was over by what, 3pm, and I didn't actually cry IN the office, which is actually quite impressive given how much I cried before and after, so I am giving myself a godalmighty pat on the back. I emailed B so that we could agree that the remainder of this week should go fuck itself, preemptively, and told him about the crying.

I ended up bent double in the park this morning, like someone had punched me in the stomach I said. Things are going brilliantly, I am at least 110% win. Right?

You are made of win he replied, comfortingly. I mean, I bet you're well dressed when park-weeping aren't you? And thus more 'despairing ingenue' than 'crazy homeless lady'. And next week when the infants are away you can buy fizzy wine from Lidl (it's actually great and €3 a bottle).

Although 'ingenue' is pushing it at 35, I did take some comfort from the fact that I was indeed wearing my beautiful MaxMara cashmere coat, bought almost exactly a year ago in a fit of wotthehell fiscal insanity and not regretted for a single, solitary second. My local Lidl is a bare five minute stumble away too. B always knows the right thing to say.

Things finally started looking up when I took Fingers to the hairdresser.

There is something irresistible about children in hairdressers, especially hairdressers that make no concessions to child friendliness, and my child is hilariously grave. I was smiling idiotically within seconds of him sitting down. He mainly tried to ignore me, conceded a small smile eventually. He's great, this one. He's funny and clever and daring, a strange mix of orderly and anarchic. He fills me with optimism. They both do. I persuaded the two of them onto a manège a bit later on, even though Lashes had to fold his knees into complex origami shapes to get into the aeroplane. I sat on a bench, wrapped in my fiscally suicidal MaxMara coat and watched them revolve in a blur of neon as the light drained from the wintry sky.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

On sweeping the kitchen floor

Seven years today since my mum died. I miss her a lot at the moment, more than for years, and differently. I miss her because I'm on my own and a bit lost, because I'm trying to be a decent parent and every setback feels like failure, because I don't really know what, or where my family is now. It's in little disparate fragments, has lost its centre. Of course, I still miss her because I'd like her to give me a hug and tell me what I'm good at, and why it will all be ok, but I also miss her because our experiences are more aligned now than ever. She and my father separated when I was tiny, and for years before she met Prog Rock and had my sister, she worked and studied and was a single parent. She lived in Ghent for two years, for god's sake! I want to ask her how it felt to be on her own with me for all those years, how she coped, what she did when things felt unmanageable, when the tidal wave of anxiety threatened to engulf her. What helped? What did she hang on to? I have only the barest sense of how it was, vague memories of people, holidays, travelling up and down the country on rickety British Rail trains with her, a tiny impression of how that life can have been for her. I want more.

I find that I think about her when I'm sweeping the kitchen floor in the evenings when the kids are in bed (yes, I do sweep the floor sometimes), because she did a lot of floor sweeping. That isn't to suggest she was some kind of domestic maniac, she was anything but. She was massively committed to her career, a career that made a difference to "people who met hard times or bore heavy responsibilities (as she had done)" as her obituary said, lived her life with extraordinary commitment and courage and a massive sense of fun. She was more about dancing on tables, or Schubert's Four Last Songs, or getting married again at 62 in a Jaeger suit with a bunch of freesias and only four guests than she was about sweeping, but for some reason, that sticks. It was a gesture, a way of imposing a tiny bit of order at the end of a day of competing commitments and stresses. So I sweep the floor and think fuzzy, inconclusive things about family and loss and bravery.

She had a great sense of gesture and ritual, my mother. She lit a lot of candles for a lot of people in a lot of cathedrals, bought flowers, wore particularly chosen things for particular events. I struggle with that; most things feel hollow for me, I've written about that before. Perhaps today I should be lighting a candle in York Minster, having tea at Betty's, taking out of season mimosa to the cemetery? I'm not. I have written something about mothers for the forthcoming issue of Elle which includes a nice anecdote about her and an Equipment shirt; she might have liked that. Today, all I'm going to do is go to the office to clear my desk, then take Fingers to the hairdresser. But I will sweep the floor later.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Things that would make this whole situation much better

Today is less buoyant. Jesus, already? I thought I had a few days of cheerful inactivity before I slipped into a decline, but that was before my cognitive faculties started to fail me entirely. In the past 24 hours I have lost the ability to tie a knot in a balloon (I just stared at it, baffled, knowing I should be able to do it, as the small children barracked me) and had a half hour blind spot over the correct direction of the accent on à - and yes, I looked at it on the keyboard again and again, but somehow it just wouldn't translate into the written version. At this rate I'll have forgotten how to dress myself by the weekend and can revert to lying in a stupor, drooling.

It's Wednesday, which isn't helping, I suppose, as gulag closes up at 1 so that everyone can go and indulge in Soviet calisthenics or extra Dutch lessons, and my children can lie around the house looking untidy and helping themselves to biscuits. I have also fallen flat on my arse once already (literal, not figurative) this morning. Fallen leaves, why must you be so .. leafy? This reminds me that whilst in London last week I actually slipped on an actual banana skin, which is the kind of achievement I never imagined I could hope for in my 36th year.

No matter. I am compiling a further list (I am all about the lists. The one I can see from here says: "Invoice, LIGHTBULBS, crème fraîche"). It is a list of things that would assist my current plight (not, in fact, plight at all. Tiny bourgeois tragedy, perhaps).

1. A mantilla. I could answer the door to Seventh Day Adventists and Belgacom, collect the infants from school and queue interminably for saucisson de jambon (a sinister luncheon meat type substance in a jaunty red plastic skin, much beloved of small boys) in the butchers with half of the pensioners in Uccle wearing it. Also, it would hide my doughy face, and I could hiss and mutter behind it happily. No-one would give you shit with a mantilla. (see previous desire for eagle. I still want one, but I worry about the upkeep).

2. A small goat in the garden to keep the grass down and eat the leftovers the dog is too pathetic to bother with. I have more than enough space for a goat. I could probably have two, actually. Then one could get on with methodically destroying everything while I held onto the other one round its goaty neck, sniffing its goaty smell and weeping, as it chewed my mantilla, impassively. I have given a lot of thought to this.

3. Soothing baroque music that gives the illusion of being totally On Top Of Things. Other things the possession of which gives the illusion of being on top of things: candles, rugs, lamps, hoover skillz, non-petrified fruit, plentiful and varied stationery and being able to see more than 20% of the surface of the kitchen table. I have the stationery. Want sellotape? I'm your girl. Want tetanus/toxoplasmosis/impetigo? I am possibly also your girl.

4. A miraculous plumber. I am tired of living in a house that smells of drains. I have tried all your many and varied suggestions. I am beginning to think that the very fabric of the sodding house smells of drains.

4. A moderate private income. Self-explanatory. Enough to go and volunteer for panda petting, at least. Even the prospect of carrying "lots of bamboo" doesn't bother me. I used to muck out stables with actual pleasure, just to get to stand near a horse. I'd do a lot more for a panda. Though frankly, it shouldn't even be necessary. If you ask me, it's about time Animals Express, the pet shop that ethics forgot, started stocking pandas, they are missing a trick (though note who they do have in stock currently. Tempted? It's my birthday soon. Just saying).

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Au chômage

So. I am properly unemployed. A little melodramatic? Ok, yes, I suppose I can concede that. But let me have my moment of drama please. After ELEVEN years, I don't have a job. All that misery back here? That was me finding out, so I've known for a while, but still, now it's Actually Happened, I have my Belgo P45 (possibly, if I checked the post) and I've cashed my last luncheon voucher (or rather, let it moulder and expire in the bottom of my handbag), caught my scarf on the dangerous bannister on the main staircase causing near asphyxiation for the last time.

Here I am, then, jobless in Uccle. Sssssh! Don't tell my landlord. For the moment it's an amusing novelty. Ha ha! Redundancy! How marvellously zeitgeisty! Soon enough the reality will kick in, probably around the time the dishwasher finally gives up the ghost (anywhere between 5 minutes and 3 weeks from now, I reckon) and I realise I can't replace it, or when I can't run away to London when I next get Belgian cabin fever.

It's ok really. I'm "freelancing". Of course, as any fule kno, in the financial Ice Age that is 2010 "freelancing" and "unemployment" are synonyms, but we will gloss over that for the moment and instead compile a list of productive and improving activities for the long, wintry "freelancing" days.

1. Have a soap opera nervous breakdown

On soap operas worldwide, getting laid off is inevitably followed by a vertiginous plunge into catatonic depression, signified using the following visual cues:

- absence of make up (women)

- stubble (men)

- childrens' programmes playing in the background as the character sits listlessly on sofa staring blankly into space

- tracksuits

- daytime drinking

I can do all of these things very easily, why, I do most of them already! Except stubble, and that's what the François Nars Aigle Noir crayon (if I had an ounce of common sense I would use an Amazon affiliate link or something here, to try and wring some cash out of being mildly amusing. I don't) is for, after all. Maybe I could go to B and I's Halloween party as a soap opera nervous breakdown?

2. Go a bit Martha Stewart, or a bit Cranks cookbook. Or both.

I made cupcakes yesterday, wearing my frilly polka dot apron, like a nutter, then strongarmed the children into decorating them, against their will. I rather wished I hadn't.

Sinister. Clearly Lashes has given up on his recent crusade as Brussels's Sugar Tzar, following me round and intoning gloomily how many spoons of sugar everything I put in my mouth contains (rarely less than twelve, according to him).

I also made a frugal flamiche aux poireaux (leek pie) and some horrible cauliflower soup that I will ignore until I can throw it away. I am subconsciously harking back to the safety of my pulse rich hippie childhood. Discussing redundancy with Miss W - whose background is virtually identical to mine - a few months ago she mentioned discussing a similar period of straitened circumstances with her mother, who reassured her that she would be ok, because she knew exactly what to do with chickpeas. I was instantly filled with relief. I, too, know what to do with chickpeas. And lentils. And split peas. I could live FOREVER on a sack of lentils and a couple of carrots and onions. The children may plead for their father to take over sole custody, but I will be in rude physical and financial health and also live forever. Win. The only other downside I can identify to this plan is that I spent the whole of the past twenty four hours eating. I think some evolutionary response to imminent scarcity has kicked in and I will be vastly fat in about a fortnight.

3. Spend more time with family

I suspect they wouldn't thank me for it, unless I was willing to spend that time looking up cheat codes for Mario et Luigi Frères du Temps. I did speak to Prog Rock yesterday evening though.

"So, do you have a job?" he asked.

"No, no job. None! Not a sniff of a job!" I said with manic, misplaced brightness.

"I'm so glad for you" he said, enthusiastically. "You should be writing about make up and things. That's what you're good at".

I laughed in a deranged fashion and drank more wine. "Sadly that market is a little saturated. But, uh, thanks".

"I suppose" he mused "It's tricky getting UK freelance work when you're in Belgium?"


"And .. you have no thoughts of moving?"

"Nope. Can't. Ah well!" More manic laughter. More wine.

"I'm still really pleased for you. I hope it works out".

"Thanks. Me too". Wine wine wine wine wine.

4. Spend more time with dog

Christ no. Look how appalled he is to be taken out in the frost.

5. Undertake worthy, necessary projects

Such as:

- Replacing all the burnt out lightbulbs on the ground floor (I feel exhausted just thinking about this).

- Replacing my driving licence and health insurance card (only 11 months after I lost them)

- Finding a tolerant, flexible and cunning accountant

- hoovering

- ironing

- dealing with missing buttons and dropped hems.

- dealing with a year of outstanding paperwork



6. Undertake wildly ambitious, pointless projects

Such as:

- Creating an elaborate new personal grooming regime.

- Writing genre fiction set in the European Parliament (vampire MEPs? I think the boat has sailed on that one. I will have to reflect further).

- Learning a minority language. Like Breton or something.

- Starting a petting zoo in the garden. Better still, a falconry centre. Owls on tree stumps dotted around the garden giving the neighbours evils (as we used to say when we were twelve).

- Visiting all Belgium's minority museums. Incidentally, my wizened, black heart was warmed by your recent enthusiasm for rubbish museums. I am making a shortlist of others to visit, including the Flint Museum, the Plasticarium, and the Doctor Somebody Institute of Psychiatry in Ghent With Two Headed Babies in Jars. Tragically, the Musée du Chicon is currently closed due to financial difficulties, which I find incomprehensible. Where were the street protests? Surely this, more than the continued failure to form a government, the increasing bitterness of language divisions or the abdication rumours, is the clearest sign yet that Belgium is crumbling?

I must go, my maroon tracksuit, half bottle of Lidl vodka and The Tweenies are calling. Any further ideas welcome.

Monday, 25 October 2010


About four in the afternoon, it's just starting to get dark, already. One minute things are entirely peaceful, the dog dozing, candles burning, a little light Laura Marling, me puttering around after a leisurely lunch with Beatrice, wondering how the kitchen table disappeared under a mountain of mysterious crap again so quickly. Then the doorbell goes, the dog wakes up and skitters into the hall, barking, all claws and elbows, there is banging, and shouting through the letterbox.

"Oscar! Oscito Dogito!"

The children are back, slouch into the house in a straggling caravan of plastic bags and abandoned coats and Nintendo cables. They both have an outlandish amount of hair, something must be done, even though Lashes only wants to go to a massively inconvenient salon miles away that has a sort of disgusting miniature pinscher called 'Paris' that he adores. I extract a quick kiss from each of them, Fingers tells me he did a 3B climbing wall and Lashes something I don't quite understand about emptying a mask, before they wriggle away to check the premises for new shaped elastic bands.

When their father leaves; they rifle through the cupboards until they find the replacement Jammie Dodgers that the dog hasn't discovered yet, eat the whole packet, poke the dog and start issuing eleventh hour pre-school demands.

"I need €2,80 tomorrow"

"I need a passport photo"

"I need crème fraîche" (???)

"I need my swimming stuff"

"So do I"

"I need a déguisement".

"I need a compass".

(Implausibly, these are all accurate demands, verified on examination of gulag despatches. I haven't had so much fun since they requested both a newspaper article on the Chilean miners several days after it was no longer news - internet print-outs not acceptable, no explanation why - and comprehensive documentary evidence of Brussels's recycling policy on 12 hours notice a couple of weeks ago "Fingers! No! I CANNOT find a photograph of a battery, dammit! Who in the world puts a picture of batteries in their promotional literature???").

That done, they slouch away and ignore me for most of the evening, stonewalling my questions, strewing elastic bands all over the floor. It's very comforting, to be taken for granted. Lashes has been worryingly solicitous towards me since the summer holidays, watchful, taking my arm, dancing attendance, consoling. It's good he doesn't feel like he needs to do that at the moment.

Will it ever not be weird, though, I wonder? At the end of each week, there's a strange half hour of, what? Anxiety? Confusion? Discomfort? Adjustment, certainly, and then everything is back to normal for another week, whatever 'normal' is for that particular week. I wonder what they think of it, the boys. It seems very new to me, but a year is a big proportion of your life when you're six, or eight. I don't remember my own parents ever being together, or them splitting up. I do remember hating the changeovers, though I spent far less time with my father than the boys do. I hated being in transit, having to adjust to a new space and a new set of rules.

Here, we swapped things around at la rentrée, used to changeover at school with one of us dropping them off on Monday morning and the other picking them up that evening. It was good initially, I think, ensured they were always happy to see either of us, and gave us a bit of distance when we needed it. But this system seems more grown up, more permanent, we have a drink, chat for ten minutes, tell each other whatever we remember, then he leaves. It feels very, well. Very adult? It's not entirely comfortable, but it's ok, really ok.

I don't know. I'm feeling a bit reflective because it's coming up to a year, but I won't harp on, I promise. It's such a commonplace now, utterly unexceptional, barely worthy of comment except when you're living through it. You hear a lot about the horrible kind, the painful and outrageous and unfair kinds of divorce and separation. Less about the ones where everyone stumbles around feeling their way, doing their best, occasionally messing up, like us. I can't help but wonder how it feels for others, which is why I love Irretrievably Broken so much. Irretrievably Broken is brilliantly moving, and brilliantly unguarded on negotiating this strange process. I love and unreservedly recommend her writing. One day the two of us will write something about divorce and separation together and the world will tremble. Or ignore us entirely. Probably that.

I'll carve a vegetable or something tomorrow, it's not only going to be heavy introspection now I'm unemployed, honest.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Now what?

Another lengthy gap between posts, proving I cannot be trusted, my promises empty and meaningless. I could have just told you that. There is a sort of half-decent reason since I handed in my manuscript on Friday at midday, keeping to an entirely self-imposed deadline. I treat my manuscript like a sort of shameful secret, cannot bear to talk about it, wish to disown it, feel faintly nauseous when I think about it. That's promising, isn't it? Imagine if it were ever to get to the point of being published, and I had to promote it?

What's your book about?

I can't really talk about that, I feel funny about it.

Why should we read it?

You shouldn't, it's AWFUL, it makes me feel sick to my stomach.

So. I am currently 45% anxiety, 20% relief, 20% pessisism, 10% holy fuck, now what? and 5% eery calm. In a gesture of great stupidity and empty symbolism, I decided to set myself a deadline to complete it simultaneously with my last day in the office, so as of now I am doubly unemployed. Brilliant. That won't be at all psychologically challenging, will it? There is absolutely no way that I will be spending tomorrow curled in a ball at the bottom of the wardrobe shaking and keening and drinking cooking sherry. Nope. It should be good for blogging though, what with me having fuck all else to do except worry myself into an early grave, so that's something to look forward to. Maybe you could suggest an amusing project for me? My sanity may depend on this, but no pressure, obviously.

In order to delay the onset of yet another self-induced life crisis, I went to London for the past couple of days and had a variety of rather brilliant times. Mrs Trefusis and I played truant, trying on clothes and hats (Mrs Trefusis looked AMAZING in every hat she tried on), admiring dog shaped handbags and going to the Savoy for cocktails (actually neither of us was playing truant, but cocktails at 4pm on a weekday must always feel like truancy). Several observations about the Savoy:

1. The refurb, although accomplished and rather brilliant in parts (there is a rather glossy black lacquered teashop type thing that I liked a great deal), is sadly soulless and theme park-esque. The frontage remains heartbreakingly beautiful, but the inside is a bit generic, deep pile swirly carpets and a great deal of gilt. Also, many many people, milling around gormlessly, like the whole of Charing Cross station has disgorged into the lobby.

2. The American Bar, in particular appears to be staffed by YTS trainees, who, whilst amiable, were completely lacking in gravitas or the kind of weary, knowing acceptance I want in a cocktail barman. You got the feeling that the louchest thing any of them had seen was a Christian youth club disco. One particularly eager teenage trainee described a cocktail to Mrs Trefusis as "like a party in your mouth", which is a phrase so full of wrongness we were both floored by it for about ten minutes.

3. There was a distinct theme of weepetty/greyhoundy bibelots, many of which looked like they had come from the specialist shops along Wigmore Street that cater to the tastes of African and South American dictators (full sized gold puma, anyone?).

I love Wigmore Street for this, incidentally. The exiled dictator can see his various Harley Street practitioners, pick up esoteric medication at the wonderful John Bell & Croyden, buy a pair of double life size bronze antelopes and select a natty outfit involving cravats and opulent silk at that shop opposite the sports shop on the corner of James Street. I am getting distracted by my dictator shopping itinerary, what I meant to say was, the weepette (greyhound really, mais on ne va pas se formaliser) is having a decorative moment, there were also several in the Guardian magazine yesterday:

Excellent. If things continue in their current apocalyptic vein, I can have mine stuffed, and possibly flocked, then place him in an East End interiors shop with a rapacious mark up.

Apart from that, I:

- lusted after a £12 Christmas tree owl:

(look at his claws!)

- ate so much Mexican food I had indigestion for 48 hours

- went on a pathetic nostalgia trip for breakfast at my old Patisserie Valerie and took a wistful photo of my old flat:


- laughed until it hurt about dweeby teenage hobbies. Mine: creating a minutely accurate model stable on the floor of my wardrobe, filled with straw and chaff, wearing a Pony Club tie at all times, spending my pocket money on single pieces of plastic fencing from the Monk Bar Model Shop to complete the tableau.

- Went to the Diaghilev exhibition (again with Mrs Trefusis) and wished I had £75 to buy a beautiful petrol set of green feathery ears. I'm not explaining that well, but they were beautiful. So was the exhibition.

- received a proposal of marriage from a taxi driver. Well, I hope he was a taxi driver, he might just have been a dangerous lunatic in possession of the oldest, most rickety hansom cab I have ever been in (I was running late, OK, and it was raining and I was among the zombie hordes of South Kensington and desperate). He drove me to St Pancras to the accompaniment of a Michael Bublé medley, sung by him in a winsome, heavily vibrato tenor. The climax, on Euston Road, was a short burst of Liza Minelli numbers, fortissimo. I learnt many things: he is learning sight reading at evening classes, he has been on X-Factor, he eats healthily and loves muesli (this was not immediately obvious to look at him), he thinks Jamie Lee Curtis is very attractive and Camilla Parker Bowles is a "bitch", he has been the subject of a number of complaints to the Licensing Board. I was flattered but declined, citing my need for personal space. Sample conversation:

TD: Do you like Cliff Richard?

E: He's not really to my taste, though obviously I admire his long career and youthful appearance.

TD: He don't look his age. 70 isn't he? Paints his hair though.

E: Does he?

TD: Yes. You think I should paint my hair?

E: Oh, no, I don't think so. It's risky, hair painting. It can go badly wrong.

TD: So you really think I've got a good voice?

E: Lovely. Simon Cowell must be mad.

I cannot imagine how this week can possibly measure up.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

3 photographs

I'm clearing out my desk at work, taking the clippings from odd journals, peculiar photographs, children's drawings off the cork board propped by desk, emptying my email folders. There's not much left in there to show for 11 years, but I found three photos, like excavated artefacts from another era. Each one stopped me in my tracks for a couple of minutes.

1. York, Christmas 2004

We're in York here, sitting on Prog Rock's sofa, newly Prog Rock's, rather than my mum's. None of us, bar possibly Lashes, is looking our best, but that's hardly the point; we're smiling, soudés (welded, literally. United, I suppose). It was strange, I remember, the first time I spent any amount of time in York since the early weeks after my mother died a year before, the first Christmas we made any tentative attempt to celebrate. It's strange constructing new rituals, or deciding not to have any, when the heart of the old ones is gone. The decisions all seem peculiarly significant and pointless all at once. We flew across from Paris for the holidays, I remember Prog Rock collecting us from Leeds Bradford airport. We had a good time, I think, as good as we were capable of, anyway at such a wretched time in our lives. I had just turned 30, and if I remember correctly, at this point, we had already decided we were moving back to the UK, that we had to cut our losses in Paris and accept that it was not going to work. It had been a terrible year, and it was about to get worse, since in this picture I was in fact already pregnant, thought the nausea I was assailed with was just Christmas overindulgence. Six weeks later this was happening.

2. Spitalfields, late Summer 2005

I love this picture.

Fingers is looking out of the cardboard rocket Violet and I bought at the V&A village fête, and that she then decorated one afternoon with the boys. The V&A fête was amazing, insane, hilarious. Violet won a Nintendo and we laughed and laughed all evening. Fingers looks absolutely angelic here, but if memory serves he was in fact absolutely kicking my ass at this age, having the most amazing temper tantrums. He would lurch tyranically into the kitchen when I was trying to make dinner - we were living in a truly lovely flat in Spitalfields, all open plan, on the top floor of a block on Spital Square - and bang his head against the cupboards until I gave him crackers, the whole thing taking place to a soundtrack of the endlessly repeated DVD "Here Comes A Digger", for earth moving equipment mad Lashes. I could still sing every word of the theme song for you.

I was sliding off the rails around this time, had stopped eating, was working like a maniac, consumed with a kind of vast, unfocussed anxiety. I find it quite hard to piece the chronology together, actually. I just went to look at the timing of the deal I was working on at the time, and I think this must have been some time in August. This makes me realise just how long things were bad; I have compressed this period in my mind, only remember clearly the strangeness of short winter days off work, going for therapy, reading Scandinavian thrillers in bed and drifting aimlessly around London drinking coffee until it was time to collect the boys from nursery. I was only finally signed off work sometime in late October or early November but I think I was already seeing the Special Lawyers Shrink ("you'll be worried about letting your clients down"; "you'll want to get back to office as soon as possible") in late August or early September.

I'm cooking my dinner as I write this - pasta and spinach béchamel and parmesan. Back then, I would no more have eaten pasta, or cheese, than I would have flown. Breakfast was coffee, lunch was miso soup, dinner stir fried vegetables and nothing else. I can dimly remember how it felt to be hungry all the time, how concave my chest was, the constant headaches, the odd certainty that every gramme I lost was going to come back eventually, that it could not continue, that I was sabotaging my own equilibrium. It was such a strange time; there was massive relief to be back in London, a new and wonderful love affair with Spitalfields and the East End generally, an unwinnable struggle to work full time in the City and look after two tiny children, and a series of aftershocks from the previous 18 months - mum's death, Fingers's birth, moving to Paris, living in Paris, an abortion, moving back to London. So many decisions in such a short space of time. The not eating was a sort of 'fuck you' to responsibility, to adulthood. I always knew it was temporary, partial, that there are responsibilities that you can't, and never actually want to, run away from. But I do remember what a struggle that whole period was, so it's odd to have such a joyful photograph of it. Violet was wonderful, amazing. The beautiful pompom rocket was a typical Violet gesture.

3. Brussels, 1 September 2006

This is the missing photo from my series of front door school shots, the very first one, before we painted the door blue, first day at the Gulag, and what a voyage of discovery that would prove to be. We had been in Brussels for about six weeks at this point, Fingers was two and a half, Lashes four. Looking at this picture, they look terribly little to go to school; they were. I look pretty happy; I was. I'm wearing a bracelet I lost weeks later, very sadly, a beautiful diamond bracelet the CFO bought me. I should never wear jewellery. I'm looking quite good, I had put on weight. It was a pretty hopeful time, a summer and an autumn of possibility. I loved our new house, new neighbourhood, and we were discovering it all together. It felt like a good decision. I still think it was, on balance, though I do wonder how we would have fared if we had stayed in London.

I think a lot of our family mythology comes from this period; first 'proper' Christmases, the time-we-went-to-the-circus-and-it-snowed, the short, but rich life of Julius and his unfortunate demise, driving to the middle of Flanders, and coming back with 4 baby tortoises, trips to the miniature steam railway, sitting in the Parc du Caca in the summer. We're still in the process of working out how you preserve the mythology, recreate, change the rituals now our family lives in two houses. It's like that Christmas 2004 all over again, and we're stumbling towards a new normal. I struggle with it, want my children to have the kind of comfort and certainty that we all project on childhood. I fret that my house isn't homely, have done for years. But I think that now, finally, I know that you can't force that sense of safety, of belonging. You can't jolly it into existence, and actually, you don't need to. So this year, my children won't open their Christmas stockings on the end of my bed; they're diving in Egypt for Halloween. But so what? The essential stuff, the kindess and constancy and the trust, the knowledge they are loved, is there. It's always there, in fact, always changing, but always there. Family is a hardy beast. The rituals are, what? Window dressing, or perhaps metaphor. It's nice to realise I have learned something in the past 6 years.

Monday, 18 October 2010

The Museum of Boring Tanks

I am sad to note an epic fail on the daily posting, crushing exhaustion seems to have got the better of me. I have let you down, and I have let myself down. Which is a shame, since you are missing out on all manner of excitement, uplifting tales of human triumph over adversity and baby animals. Yes, that is a lie, well spotted.

I am sure there must be something to relate though. We went to the Belgian Museum of Boring Tanks this weekend, which I am comforted to say that all members of the party seemed to hate in equal measure. Something is going right with my parenting; I would be terribly alarmed to end up with one of those children who like wearing fatigues and keep copies of Guns & Ammo under their bed. That was a classic mode of rebellion at Quaker school, predictably, so I knew several in my youth. We scored the Boring Tank Museum as follows:

Sword displays: 6

("like a peacock's tail" said Lashes, poetically, before losing interest entirely and trying to kick a hole in Napoleon III's camp bed)

Quantity of Belgian flags: 10

Ridiculous helmets: 6

Tanks/planes/guns: 2

Faux dalek: 7

Disturbing tableaux intended to represent hunger on the Western Front: 9

Officious staff: 2

Wide open spaces to play with Fingers's new love, his impressively low-tech wind-up radio controlled car (he is holding it in a vicelike grip in that photo up top): 8

I have a great fondness for museums that have stubbornly failed to move with the times and introduce interactivity and fun. This was a classic of the genre with many rooms filled with dusty, forbidding display cases filled with pieces of metal. Actually, the one attempt at creativity - a first world war trench rendered in decaying hardboard, with a few modest explosion noises sent Lashes into a terrified tailspin, so it was doubtless a mercy the rest of the displays were untouched since 1957. There was a rather brilliant café in a dusty, freezing hangar full of aeroplanes which had also made no concessions to modernity, and perfectly replicated a yellowing provincial bar for elderly alcoholics. The whole thing was very reminiscent of the Railway Museum in York, another freezing, poorly lit hangar in which I have spent far too much of my life, though at least the Boring Tank Museum was policed by dashing members of the Belgian army in pretty blue serge uniforms telling you not to touch the delicate armoury, not doughy, grey, train fanciers.

Amusingly, the people we went with were Really Into That Weaponry Shit and I was forced to nod and smile politely at a great deal of torpedo factoids. My children made no such effort, initially speculating at how they would avoid conscription in the event of a Belgian war (they believe themselves to be Belgian), then rolling their eyes and stage whispering "this is boring when can we leave", and finally repairing to a bench to squabble about their ridiculous coloured elastic bands. The collective relief was great at 4pm when we were unceremoniously kicked out by a gentleman with a luxuriant moustache, saying "We close now. You must go".

Anyway, I seem to have contracted a mild case of hopelessness in the Museum of Boring Tanks, meaning that I have spent much of the weekend trying to find small dark spaces to curl up in, only to be poked awake to sort out fights about single cubes of Lego. I did not post, forgive me. I promise to do better even though I have set myself an implausible deadline this week that will be haunting my every waking moment.

How was your weekend? Or what's your favourite shit museum?

Thursday, 14 October 2010

On beards and biscuits

M said she would let me off blogging tonight but I am the kind of craven, girlie swot who likes EXTRA homework.

A flying visit to London then, to look at this:

Shiny. But small! For some reason I was imagining something a little like one of those sunburst clocks from the 1970s attached to a large piece of ribbon. My slight disappointment at the medal was entirely tempered by hearing that there is an Actual Sword genuinely involved. The Queen wore turquoise, apparently. And left her handbag on the throne (is he winding me up?) to do the sword business.

So. My father is a knight of the realm, and also features prominently in this list of The Best Beards In Science:

(in an unfortunate subbing error he is mislabelled. He is the one in the middle but that is not his name. Respect the beard, Times!). I am very proud. And a little envious of that beard at the top.

Apart from that I bought:

- cod liver oil capsules as M insists they are miraculous for your skin and I look like the sloughed off skin of a particularly boring species of snake at the moment;

- a cheap 'n' nasty Rimmel nail polish called 'Celebrity Bash'. Which leaves me wondering: celebrity would you most like to bash? (me: Gwynnie (though not hard, I promise, what with the osteoporosis), M: "SCARLETT LISPHANSON").

- several patent cold remedies. My colds are blending into each other like coats of paint on the Forth Bridge. Is that was this winter will be like? Oh goodie.

- A packet of Halloween crackers to assuage my parental guilt. They are rubbish, let me advise you in the strongest terms not to bother. Also, until you have tried to translate a joke involving a play on the word "spell" to two, to all intents and purposes, Belgian children, you have not known true futility.

- A packet of Jammy Dodgers, eaten in its entirety by the weepette in about two minutes flat as I came upstairs to put the children in bed. Bastard. He knew he had done wrong; I found him cowering under the babyfoot with a sort of half remorseful, half nauseous expression. Since I know EXACTLY how that feels, I let him off with a sort of half-hearted 'bad boy'. He spent the rest of the evening like this:

I also know how that feels.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Happy Birthday Sir Waffle

Tomorrow is my father's 65th birthday. He is getting a knighthood for his birthday, which is just ridiculous one-upmanship, and now all the other 65 year olds will want one. Honestly. I blame the parents.

I am going across tomorrow - not to meet Brenda, sadly (how amazing would that be?), just for lunch - to see him. In preparation the children have drawn him birthday pictures, under only the mildest of duress. For twenty minutes they were peacefully industrious, the silence only broken by occasional questions, such as:

"Comment on écrit "bière" en anglais?" (how do you spell beer in English).

Both pictures feature beer heavily.

Lashes has drawn beer fish and a beer boat ('pacquebot' he said, actually, which is a word I love). Then there is a crab wearing a test tube on its head and the whole scene is seemingly enclosed in a giant laboratory flask.

Fingers's picture has a similar theme. A boat is dropping things, to a chorus of "EH!". The things include beer, a test tube and a 1kg weight. There is also an octopus with two severed tentacles.

Papa Waffle is a scientist, with a particular emphasis on fisheries. I am not quite sure where the focus on beer came from.

Will he do "des trucs de chevalier?" asks Lashes.

"Hmm. I doubt it. He's allergic to horses".

Happy birthday, though, and many congratulations to my brilliant, extraordinary, funny, occasionally terrifying father, who no longer transports potato sacks full of live chickens in a converted Smiths Crisps van, and whose rabbit Heraclitus is sadly long dead, but who continues to awe, entertain, and love us all fiercely. As well as, you know, being in charge of Science. (But not beer).

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Day of Two Halves

I owe a great deal of penance. I promise to provide it. But I also said I would post every day and I already missed yesterday, and all I really want to do tonight is drool gently onto my pillow and hopefully not have a repeat of last night's dream where everything in the world melted into a black oily substance if I ate vegetables. Fie, fie.

It was a peaceful, grown up day. I went to the tiny organic market (after a year,the woman on the fruit and veg stall has shifted from open hostility to grudging acceptance of my custom, as long as I don't make trouble by, for instance, having the temerity to pick up an avocado myself. Today she even asked about whether there was something wrong with the dog's ears. I am choosing to view this as a stab at friendly conversation), walked the dog (the park café is reopening! This is very exciting. In its previous incarnation they gave you a tiny chocolate mousse with your coffee, which was the height of decadence, and still spoken of in hushed tones in the neighbourhood), worked, and got sidetracked into researching the various horrors of Léopold II (turns out he really did bring 200 odd people from Congo across to the Universal Exhibition in 1897, and 7 of them really did die of exposure), had a croque monsieur and fifteen pints of coffee, played the piano a bit, cleaned. I'm getting better at being on my own (but partly because I'm doing less of it, which makes it far easier to appreciate).

Then at half past four the boys arrived in an explosion of brightly coloured plastic trailing 14 carrier bags and talking over each other, standing on chairs to empty the kitchen cupboards. We weaved haphazardly to the park, falling over each other and the thrilled dog, my pockets stuffed with biscuits they preemptorily insisted I carry. After several muddy and inept knee skids down the hill we ran into one of Fingers's friends and his mother and the three of them ran off with the dog. We chatted briefly, trying to ignore the boys as they tried to ride a scooter down a sheer sandy drop towards the fetid pond.

"Ah, c'est le pied" she said, enviously as I explained our joint custody arrangements. "That's brilliant".

I never quite know what to say to this, or to its opposite, the murmurmed pained condolences, the "Really? I don't think I could..". I don't know, really. It works, sort of, it has brilliantly good bits and sad, painful or lonely bits. It can be quite salutory to have time to miss your kids, to realise how very much you like their company and sure, getting a weekend lie in is an extraordinary feeling when you're used to having your eyelids prised open well before 7 with demands for the kinds of cereals that catapult you straight into type 2 diabetes.

I don't have anything profound to say about it tonight, I'm just glad to have them back, with their finely trodden carpet of crisps across the floor, and the pointy single Lego pieces sown discreetly across the floor for maximum impact, and the packets of chocolate buttons I have had to remove from their secret hiding place and the last ditch calls for water at twenty past bedtime.

And here's a giant pumpkin.

Friday, 8 October 2010

The Belgian Waffle Secular Confessional Revival

So. As promised, we have the small matter of reviving the Belgian Waffle Secular Confessional, to deal with. I can only confess the most venal and pathetic of sins at the moment, not because I do not have festering evil in my black heart, but because I am looking for a job and it has made me profoundly cowardly about what I can and cannot write. Penury will do that. There may be anonymous confessions. Some of them may be mine. Or they may not. I cannot be drawn further on this topic.

Here, though, are the trifling ones:

1. The sin of envy: I am consumed with low level, constant envy for many, many people. Most recently, this has manifested as I crawl around the house on my hands and knees for the 8th time this week, fulminating and trying to remove the tsunami of hair and filth that two dogs have set off all over my floor. I am envious of the CFO's TWO cleaners and live in au pair. I confess it.

2. The sin of Maje. I have no money. But no no no money. Nevertheless, I bought a top from Maje in a fit of catastrophic stupidity last week. It was pre-Tall Tales, I was flipping out, my jumper was too hot and had a hole in and I made the mistake of going into Selfridges vaguely looking for a tshirt or vest top, lost my bearings and ended up at the Maje concession. This is not a good excuse. Also, I see on the Guardian website that Zara does one that is virtually identical and probably a tenth the price. Figures. Also, I spent some time staring at pretty paper Korean accounts books online today. As if THAT would help. Fuck off, Emma, you are a moron. Oh, do you want to see the top? Would that help you gauge the sinfulness better?

It's part leopard print, part Rorsach test and the inkblots spell out: "you are really fucking stupid".

3. The sin of extreme slatternliness, particularly grave for a beauty bloggist. This is a sin of many parts. I have idly torn two cuticles this week so they are bleeding and swollen, then I tried to trim one with the office scissors. There is a, I don't know, a THING on my finger that has been there for nearly two years. Like a horrid little callous. I just pull at it occasionally for fun. I slept in my makeup last night, and my clothes the night before that. I haven't been to the dental hygienist for 800 years. I have about 14 different cleansers. I do not use any of them. The Chanel Dragon on my toes is so chipped it is more of a small lizard. I do not have the energy to groom both myself AND the house, so I do neither. Let us not even speak of the garden, which has been entirely consumed by some kind of giant fungus.

4. The sin of cowardice. I should be negotiating. I am not negotiating. I am shuffling my feet awkwardly, failing to say anything when the time comes, then sulking when things do not miraculously go my way.

5. The sin of reckless personal endangerment. Seeking out the company of someone deranged (related to something furry recently of this parish) purely to listen to his completely delusional monologues both for 1. pure, joyful entertainment; and 2. writing material. It is simply too good. I cannot resist, even though it may result in me being disposed of in a number of heavy duty plastic bags somewhere in Auderghem.

6. The sin of intolerance. Things I cannot tolerate this month: slow walking pensioners on public thoroughfares, excessive reliance on emoticons, anyone sitting in coach 5 of the Eurostar and having the temerity to speak, the evil empire of Nespresso.

Right. The drill is as follows, new confessees. You may, if you wish, suggest penance for me. You may also confess your own sins and I will devise a horrible penance for you. Go on, confess, the sweet balm of secular absolution awaits you, my children.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

October, and the decline of Facepasta

Sssssh. I'm going to keep my voice down. I don't want to anger 2010, which has so far proved itself to be a vindictive bastard.


Right now, today, 7th October, I feel more positive than I have for months. There is no sound factual basis for this feeling. It is just that, a feeling, a tiny fizz of optimism. The facts still revolve around financial and career meltdown, domestic chaos and the strange, lonely business of joint custody. But the nauseating anxiety has gone for now, the despair that led to me sitting with my face in a plate of pasta saying that I was "a waste of space" not so many weeks ago has abated. That incident may have marked a turning point, leading as it did to the coining of M's and my favourite new phrase:

"Facepasta (n). State of despair so acute as to necessitate one's face being pressed down in a plate of pasta".

I have only my friends and family to thank for my gradual emergence from what M called "the Pizza Hut all you can eat buffet of facepasta" of the last few months. However bad things got - and they really did get pretty bad for a while - there was always someone making me laugh, somehow. This is what the best, most precious friends can do: take your misery and make you laugh at it. Mine did that again and again over the last twelve months, and guess what? Shared despair, pitch black humour, inappropriate cackling and the occasional baby animal are a surprisingly life-enhancing combination. This place may have been hard to get to, and it's not stable, or comfortable yet by a long way, but I do feel very very lucky to have got here, and in such good company.

I have been living on my own for nearly a year now, in this gloriously ugly mixture of crap '80s appliances, orange paint and bad tiling. I will probably mark the actual anniversary in some way, but for now, here are some minor achievements of the past twelve months:

1. Article finally - FINALLY! - published in the Guardian. (For some reason this, and no other publication is my index of writing success. It's a product of my muesli-misery lit childhood, Clothkits, carob and candle dipping and always, but always, The Guardian).

2. Learned how to throw a tennis ball a decent distance. Doesn't sound like much? You should have seen me before. The dog would stare in mournful disbelief and refuse to chase the ball I had hopelessly deposited inches from my own feet. It frequently followed other people in the park in the hope they would take it home with them. Now, I can tire the bastard out ALL BY MYSELF. Yeah.

3. Drove and navigated 4000 miles successfully with only one very minor wall related accident.

4. Built a Lego pineapple and several flat packs. Brought a three person sofa home from Ikea alone. Succeeded, in the face of overwhelming odds, in getting an internet connection from the worlds worst telecoms company (yes, Belgabastards, that's you. Ha! I just googled "Belgacom are shit" and landed here, a blog I think will merit closer study).

5. Two people described my house as "homely". Homely is all I have ever wanted for it. I struggle to feel that myself, but to have some kind of external approval is oddly comforting.

So. There is no triumphalism here. Separation is painful and prolonged and the sum of our family welfare has not been improved in the last year. I have no illusions about that. But managing, coping, being kind and careful with one another, and occasionally managing to use an Allen key? It'll do.

But ssssssh.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

"Waffles, lots of waffles"

News - if one can call it that - from Belgium's continued attempts to form a government (remember,there is the foppish Socialist with the bow tie and the fat, obstructive one Flemish nationalist and they are supposed to find a way to play nicely together) is predictably disastrous. La Libre has reported a series of off the record comments from people across the political spectrum involved in the process. They include things like:

Di Rupo, the foppish Socialist " .. doesn't understand much and he's slow".

Laurette Onkelinx and Joëlle Milquet "are morons, really. If you put the two of them in a TV studio together, it's like a lunatic asylum".

Flemish is described as "a language of savages".

Fattie, Bart de Wever, is "a horror" .. "pathological" .. "physically weak ... he eats waffles, lots of waffles".

Then there's this gem:

" Di Rupo ... ne fait rien et il se contente de se maquiller .. tout le monde sait très bien quand une négociation est foutue et qu’on peut rentrer chez soi : Di Rupo quitte la salle précipitamment avant tout le monde et court aux toilettes pour se maquiller"

"Di Rupo .. does nothing, just puts his make up on. We all know when the negotiations are screwed and we can go home: Di Rupo hurries out of the room before everyone else to put his makeup on in the toilets".

It's hardly edifying, particularly on a week when Jon Stewart is also mocking Belgium. There are owls in the Groot Bijgaarden pet shop better qualified to form a government and one day I will prove it.

Of course, I myself have demonstrated my entirely superior work ethic in every way today, as ever. I have had difficulty deciding which tasks to procrastinate about first today, resulting in excellent productivity levels in the fields of:

- -lengthy but inconclusive reflections on the perfect karaoke song (do you have one? Do tell);
- nourishing minor resentments;
- anomie;
- eating champagne truffles;
- self-flagellation;
- deciding what my signature cocktail would contain (The Belgian Waffle: advocaat, speculoos liqueur and iced Yorkshire Gold tea. What's yours?)

Neither the penultimate chapter nor the invoicing have performed quite so well. My character is under a table in McDonalds outside the Jardin des Plantes, fretting about straw wrappers, while my invoices remain purely theoretical.

In keyword news: someone in Calgary, Canada, was anxious to find out "if Sausage McMuffin is code for drugs". I am trying to imagine the context in which this might arise and failing.

And a Kir Avignon, as mentioned yesterday, is with lavender sirop, and very delicious. I did not, however, drink so many tonight that I have forgotten the person who said "from reading your blog I thought you would be much older and fatter". I suppose this is some kind of a backhanded compliment, but now my blog feels self-conscious. Does my font look big in this?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Tuesday update

A quickie, then, because you've been so patient.

Today's keywords:

"Lantern fish devil may cry" (incomprehensible)

"Mature women use self-deprecation filthy" (uncanny, though possibly not the same kind of 'filthy')

"Pathetic Belgium" (mean)

"Gaufre de Liège chewy" (stale)

"aspirational glasses" (yes please, particularly after recent, wounding keyword search "Belgian bint ugly glasses bad attitude").

News from behind the deathly barricades at Gulag 54 is.. anticlimactic. There is lots of this kind of thing:

Policemen mooching around in a desultory fashion carrying offensive weapons. We were breathlessly informed that "the alert level has been raised", but then allowed to wander, unchallenged into the building through a side door kindly left open by the handyman. C'est normal.

5 complaints:

1. I have a whiny, snivelly, cold
2. M has given me her psychosomatic cough through brain twinnage cross-infection
3. My outfit is all wrong when it should have been so so right.
4. I left the fridge open all day
5. I have been a total wimp about something and have consequential self-loathing. 'Letting I dare not wait upon I would, like the poor cat in the adage', as Jeeves regularly said to a baffled Bertie Wooster. I do not even have a peerless manservant to pour me a stiff drink to compensate.

5 salvations:

1. There are 2 Colin the Caterpillar cakes left in my floral tin.
2. I am seeing the Teacup for a lavish lunch on Thursday when we will exchange fish war stories. And oh look! She has revived her ailing blog with a lovely post which features a mantilla.
3. I have managed to break my Beatrice Ong shoes in, at last, after endless blisters.

4. B is being particularly hilarious at the moment. He told me today that he "wished to stab this day with an ivory vampire killing kit", then set out a detailed fantasy of a killing spree we could go on together. His resources of baby animal material are seemingly inexhaustible.
5. Tomorrow I plan to do nothing more challenging that sit in total silence in my house and write, then go and drink Kirs Avignonais. I do not know what they are, that is the surprise.

Your whines and salvations in the comments, please.