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
- 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
- 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
- dealing with missing buttons and dropped hems.
- dealing with a year of outstanding paperwork
6. Undertake wildly ambitious, pointless projects
- 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.