Sunday, 28 February 2010

Viva Lucha, Viva Bruxellas

One of the best things - possibly THE best, though it would be very hard to choose a highlight - about Lucha Libre Belgian style, was the amount of audience participation. And when I say audience participation, I mainly mean MASKS.



Masks everywhere. Masks on pregnant women, masks on small children, masks everywhere.




Masked groups.



Glasses-on-top-of-masks.


Masked hipsters.



Masked drinkers.


Uber-masked tryhards.



The woman fiddling with the slightly Japanese looking ninja mask was at least 8 months pregnant.




This guy was my absolute favourite, in his chinos and v necked navy pullover and sensible shoes. AND WRESTLING MASK. I took lots of pictures of him. In fact, I think I had to be forcibly restrained from taking more.



I forgot my purse (it wasn't my most brilliant day organisationally - got the venue wrong, parked somewhere insane and had an Incident with a birthday cake that must never EVER be spoken of) so couldn't get my own mask. Devastating. I might have to make one. But we did make like the rest of Brussels's Lucha Libre fans and stage a pretend fight in front of the ring.



Oh, you want to see ACTUAL Mexican Wrestling? That was awesome too. I feel well qualified to say it was almost certainly the most exciting thing to happen in Belgium all year.











I got almost misty-eyed at the end when the wrestlers were waving tiny paper Belgian flags and shouting "Viva Bruxellas".



Gracias Belgica! Viva Bruxellas!

Saturday, 27 February 2010

To do list

Hydrate. Hydrate some more. Take Nurofen and Berocca and horse tranquilisers. Paint ghastly vodka sweaty visage with Sisley Eclat Tenseur and Guerlain Midnight Secret and children's budget poster paints if necessary.

Stop gnawing on giant economy sized Cadbury Caramel bars "for my electrolyte balance".

Attempt to build overly complex clothes rail for spare bedroom out of meccano. Decipher/burn cryptic Ikea instructions. Possibly abandon all hope and replace clothes rail with small bunch of daffodils.

Attempt to build small bedside table without breaking self. Or table. Do not become alarmed or befuddled by the sinister magic of the ratchet screwdriver. In fact do not TOUCH ratchet screwdriver.

Retrieve dog. Attempt not to gag on entering stinking dog borstal. Be nice, but NB. not TOO nice to Walter the dog gaoler. Stroke weepette whilst secretly thinking dark thoughts about how easy life is without a dog. Sigh.

Make 2 very sober birthday cakes for Fingers.

Drive to Charleroi. Locate Charleroi without vomiting with panic or ending up in Louvain. Or Courtrai. Or Kuwait.

Remember to put DIESEL in the car. DIESEL. D.I.E.S.E.L. Locate petrol reservoir before reaching garage. Maybe practise opening.

Remember that despite appearances to the contrary this is a five door car. Do not embarrass self by climbing through from front seat again.

Collect BRAIN TWIN. Try and recall how to speak to Brain Twin without a keyboard.

Spent weekend alternating riotous idiocy and hibernation. Cackle. Eat. Drink. Watch Mexican Wrestling. Eat superlative chips on Rabbit Island. Consider plans for world domination. Reject in favour of salted caramel products.

Better get started.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Keywords

Reports of my recovery were greatly exaggerated to the point of demented optimism. Admittedly this is partly my own fault for frolicking out last night feeling "Better! Totally better!" and having 2 (Belgian) margaritas and a heap of (Belgian) tortilla chips for dinner, then having to set off at 7 for the airport. Please PLEASE fix the Eurostar because I can neither afford, nor cope with Zaventem International Flughafen or whatever the fuck they are calling it now. It will never have the sheen of glamour that international travel should have for me, not since a particularly searing day some years ago spent collecting and transporting several boxes of scraps of oil stained paper from the truculent workmen in the Sabena workshop for a court case. (REMINDER/HEALTH WARNING: the law is NOT like Damages).

So. I am sick as a dog. But it is still lovely to be here, and if I am dying of self-pity, it seems fitting that I should do it here so I can have my ashes scattered in Liberty's Hall of Japanese three armed garment weirdness. And nothing gets you over your puny poorliness quicker than being with someone who is properly ill and bearing it very magnificently (do join me in a hearty Fuck Cancer, won't you?).

Instead of trying to form words and sentences, where there is only poorly, whiny crapness, today's blog search keyword search terms deserve some attention.

I am just going to just give you the full list, I can't even select any particular winners.

Blue Waffle infection picture
Blue waffle infection images
Dash tracksuits
Stepmom belgian fucks
Dead waffle M
A bigger pakka makka penis enlarge
Dirty blue waffle
Supplier for adritt carpet cleaner
Google hammer.com type in blue waffle spider
What is a Belgian waffle
bee keeping in inner city allotments
Belgian wafflw
Personified waffle
People first language quiz
Pictures of the blue waffle infection
How do I protect myself from blue waffle
Beligan waffle
Real fucking Belgian waffles
Pics of the blue waffle infection
Cake
What is worse than blue waffle
Kate mara sexy
Look French
Waffle belgina
Best supermarket uccle
deepest Belgian waffle
I know you can... I move it... tonight yeh yeh lyric
Belgian feet


I mean, how do you select a winner from this list? I have a sneaking fondness for the starkness of "cake". Seriously, who goes to google and types "cake"? What ARE they looking for? Oh. People in India apparently. As a general rule, I find the more depraved and bizarre the keyword search, the more likely it is to have originated in Canada. Make of this what you will.

Answers, where possible below, but I am not answering any questions relating to blue waffle infection, which has come to dominate the keyword searches in a massively disturbing fashion. Indeed, it has become so self-referential that last week threw up "googling blue waffle and wishing you hadn't". Let this be a warning to you.

"What is a Belgian waffle"
Ah, poor innocent searcher, there is no such thing. There are Gaufres de Liège - dense, doughy, oval and sugar studded, can feed a family of four, cost 1 euro 50 from unscrupulous street corner pushers. There are also Gaufres de Bruxelles, which are grotesquely large aerated rectangles of dullness. Frankly, neither is up to much. May I recommend the 'Craquelin' instead, which as well as having a name that sounds like some kind of French pixie, is a deliciously sugary, slightly undercooked brioche, and much more the thing if you are looking for dough-based satisfaction.

"Beekeeping in inner city allottments"
What kind of a Hackney dwelling hipster do you take me for? I already thought my sister was taking the piss when she told me about the chicken keeping revolution in Britain. I still do, secretly. But bees? OUCH. Fuck off.

"Best supermarket Uccle"
They are all pretty dreadful. Not one of them could hold a candle to the lowliest Sainsburys (yeah, verily. Though possibly they may beat the nastier varieties of Tesco Metro). A filthy rumour circulated in Belgian women's magazines at one point that the Delhaize at Molière was a hotbed of desirable men. Either I am going to the wrong Delhaize or it was a cruel joke.

"Belgian feet"
I have not got close enough to any to give a qualified opinion. However I can tell you that most of the people on my tram route favour shoes that look as if they were dug up from an Iron Age settlement, given a cursory brush down, and worn on the morning commute.

A foetal position, accessorised with some gentle rocking, beckons. If you can shed any light on any other keywords, please, be my guest. Especially the spider one. Be gentle on me if you choose to focus on the Makka Pakka penis enlargement.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Discreet cakes and extraneous knitwear

I am not so sick any more. Thoughts of dying alone and unmourned have receded to a more reasonable, once an hour, level. I have eaten half a packet of Carr's Melts, the superiorly salty cracker. I could do with another 48 hours sleep, but apart from that I am pretty perky.

Firstly, I have marked your entries in the Surprise Test, check how you did at comment #31. A fairly poor show all round, but props to Candace for creating an ice cream flavour for Reno I could actually taste (and gag on).

Back to London tomorrow. My niece and nephew will doubtless be delighted with the short films the spawn have made for them, which are heavy on violence and dance routines and short on plot, like some kind of Belgo-Bollywood spectacular. Except with more plastic sharks. After my nephew's opening sally, an elaborate dance routine in a Mexican wrestling outfit, it's turning into a cross-channel video dance off, which is no bad thing. Things I must bring back from London: small plastic aliens in packets for the spawn, Protect & Perfect serum for my colleague, Peanut Butter Chunky KitKats for the bulimic that slumbers within me. Possibly also a birthday present for Fingers who will be six (going on fifty six) on Monday.

With my usual once yearly display of bounteous, perfect motherdom, I brought out my extensive collection of Women's Weekly and Jane Asher birthday cakes books and set them in front of him on Sunday.

"Are you ready to choose your cake darling?" I trilled, filled with confidence and self-satisfaction at the memory of past, er, triumphs. Ahem.

Fingers pushed the books away fastidiously without opening them.

"Je veux un gâteau normal". (I want a normal cake)

"Oh. What, like a rectangular one? With sweets on the top?"

"Oui"

"Your name in Smarties? Sparklers?"

"Non"

"Oh. Ok."

And thus it starts, the process of being an embarassment to your children. He has already tried to stop me going to a party with him. In a matter of months he will be making me walk ten paces behind him and only address him in the privacy of our home. For some reason his elder brother is less appalled by me, though more focussed on extracting Stuff. Perhaps with the regular application of ten euro notes and DS games I might still be allowed the odd cuddle for another year or so. This is why people end up having more children isn't it? Or pets. Or extremely tactile partners.

In other news I went to see Vampire Weekend toute seule comme une grande this week. I don't know quite what I was expecting, but fewer fourteen year olds. Without any particular thought, I ended up right down the front which admittedly attracts the more robust section of the crowd. By the time I looked up and realised there was a more age-appropriate first floor balcony where people in sensible trousers were standing stroking their beards and nodding sedately, it was too late, I was wedged in. It was an interesting sociological experience anyway. Why so many jumpers, teens? This is not the kind of 'no future' nihilism I expect from adolescents, thank you. I was mystified by the profusion of knitwear, though it didn't stop them bouncing along cheerfully enough (so hot! How could they bear it?). Vampire Weekend were very slick, very sweet, very gracious as you might expect, played a nice long set with all the tunes you would want to hear at a Vampire Weekend gig. You would have to have been a native speaker to hear the slightly sardonic tone when Ezra Koenig said 'Brussels'. Maybe I was imagining it anyway?

Coming soon: the long-delayed return of Dr Capybara, physiotherapy with Dr Champagne (a real doctor, not another disgruntled rodent) and Mexican Wrestling, belgo-style.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Sicknote


I am sick

Je suis malade

Ik ben siek

Ich bin krank

Estoy enferma

Sorry, I got sick today, so marking of yesterday's Surprise Test is still in a pile on the corner of my desk. (I do not have a desk) I should probably have realised something was wrong when I spent 20 minutes lying on the floor of the bedroom when I should have been getting dressed this morning, or even when I starting crying on the tram for no reason. But no, I insisted on going all the way to the office to lie on the floor of the ladies wrapped in my coat and cry. Truly, I am employee of the month. And blogger of the month, since despite the fact I have nothing to offer but the written equivalent of a death rattle, I am determined to blog for you. Yes! The show must go on, even if the 'show' is about as much fun as the stomach flu itself.

Since getting home, I have been alternating sleeping, weeping, shouting at the dog (who, not content with the lovebombing of the weekend, has taken up peeing in the house again) and projecting myself gloomily into a future where I die alone and unmourned. Normal sick day activities. Where is my manservant (I don't mean that in a gender specific way, any gender of domestic operative would be welcome) to bring me small glasses of water and deal with the ceaseless demands for attention from the domestic animal and maybe mop the floor which has mystifyingly got dirty again?

Talking of dirty floors, here are my Top Five Domestic Irritations of the moment:

1. That non-slip rug underlay that doesn't work. Fuck off, Ikea, you useless bastards. Finding the rugs bunched up in the corner of the room after the dog or children have been chasing something is giving me serious stabbiness.

2. The dog's insistence on excavating its food bowl in the hope that something better is hiding underneath, spreading vomitously disgusting dog croquettes all over the kitchen where I then have to sweep them up with my dustpan and brush that oh yes! The weepette has chewed up.

3. I cannot be emptying the vacuum cleaner right, since the only way I seem to be able to do it is with a teaspoon. I know this cannot be right, yet every time I try and work out what I am doing wrong I get terrified of breaking it and back off. The spoon is fine! Sort of.

4. The downstairs loo, which in the past 3 months has received the whole contents of the household cleaning aisle at Carrefour many times over, still smells like someone died in there.

5. More generally the house smells funny. No amount of Diptyque candles, lavender oil, Savon de Marseille floor cleaning stuff seems to make a difference. It smells slightly of masala lamb chops, slightly of some very horrible sickly polish used once on the wooden floors, slightly of the downstairs loo of despondency. The old house smelled of woodsmoke, due to the CFO's blind worship at the shrine of his open fire. It's a lot nicer. Somehow, however, I don't think introducing a top note of burning into the mix is going to help.

Obviously, I throw this open to anyone who wishes to share their domestic irritations too. I am going to lie in a darkened room with my self-pity to keep me warm.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Surprise test - the return

Right, I only have half an hour before I make like the young people and go out to see a popular music combo. Nevertheless, I'm conscious daily posting has slipped somewhat recently and I like daily posting, so we'll just have to see what I can come up with in this half hour, whilst simultaneously fretting about coats (I need one, it's raining and it's February but then what do you do with it? An old lady concern, I know), and whether there will be anything but beer to drink and the like.

So. I think the only thing we really have time for today is a SURPRISE TEST. Intérro surprise! Close your browsers and get your pens out. Round One today, maybe further rounds later in the week.

Answer THREE of the following questions. Show your working.

1. Would you rather have your face eaten deferentially by a weepette, have your shins kicked with extreme prejudice by Dr Capybara, or suffer galloping blue waffle infection? Why?

2. How would you cure bloating in an albino clawed toad (as frequently requested by keyword searchers arriving at these pages)?

3. Attempt to suck your cheeks in as far as this man. Take a photograph of the result. Attempt to recreate in words the sound made when he sucks his cheeks in this far.

4. Create an ice cream flavour that exactly represents the town you live in (eg Brussels might be Jupiler chicory chunk).

5. What kind of animal would you call Huguette?

6. Who would you include in the Belgian government if it was your turn to run the country? You may include as many non-Belgians as you find amusing.

7. Is there any substitute for peas?

8. Provide one piece of advice given to you by a member of your family that you find either useful or ridiculous.


There. Marks and scoring and probable ridicule tomorrow.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Crazy smelly old dog lady post


This is the kind of post I had a nightmare about recently. In my nightmare, one of SueBob or Wrath of Dawn or some dreamworld amalgam of the two, commented on a dog themed post saying something like 'sorry, this dog stuff is just so boring. You used to be funny, but this has just killed it for me'. I woke up haunted, both by the dream comment, and by the fact I was dreaming about occasional blog commenters (worse, this is not the first time, and I am quite sure I am not alone either. Back me up, come on). However, the last twenty four hours has been largely devoted to travels with my dog, and you know what? It has been LOVELY. I have had a truly delightful 24 hours. And given my reputation for bitter, miserable, depressive shit, I thought I would at least tell you something cheery. Waffle In Good Weekend Shock! Hold the front page.

At long last, after all these years of daydreaming, and three meandering trains taking in most of the European battlefields of the last 800 years, I finally got to walk round Paris (and Lille. And Ghent, but I never fantasised about that, oddly enough) dressed like a proper grown up, with an elegant dog trotting obediently (sort of) by my side. This was the realisation of one of my cherished adolescent dreams, and it didn't disappoint. Yesterday afternoon, coming out into the surreally beautiful sunshine at the Gare du Nord it was all I could do not to burst into song; I was certainly smiling like a lunatic, and greeting the winos with a friendly wave. Ok, there was probably a large element of relief at actually arriving, which looked far from certain somwhere between Roubaix and Tourcoing with my morose companion staring bleakly at the passing fields, like a minor character from Chekhov contemplating the many miles to Moscow, and the poor yields from his potato crop.

Comme ceci:




Ou ceci:

Here, you can see he is nicely wrapped in my MaxMara cashmere coat to protect the train seats and save him from the Siberian winter chill.

Or again, reprised in the Métro, for the benefit of the Japanese tourists:




Weepette got a really surprising amount of love in Paris. I haven't felt love like it since I used to parade the tiny and very fetching infant Lashes through Soho and Fitzrovia in the summer of 2002. I would have thought the Parisians were entirely immune to pretty dogs, but it was rather heavenly to be stared at in Paris for a reason other than having grass on my arse (last sartorial crime, mid 2009, stopped several times and told off), dirty jeans, or worst of all, EATING in the street. It was as if the whole additional responsibility, trailing through muddy parks, haemorraghing money at the vets, wiping up pee, had suddenly found its purpose. I trotted him down to the Rue du Bac in the early evening, and spent a blissful hour peeping in shop windows and confirming my long held suspicion that my time in Paris would have been much pleasanter if I had given birth to a puppy instead of a child shortly before moving there.

Even on arrival, my divine hôtesse (to whom so SO many thanks for having me) remarked on weepette's fine ability to blend with a wide range of soft furnishings and self-effacing manner. He was a good talking point when conversation flagged, a cooperative cushion or handwarmer and amused the various children. I had the warm glow of pride I very occasionally get with my children (when they are not picking their noses or pretending to be mute). Honestly, a dog. It's the perfect crutch for the socially awkward and incapable.

After a gorgeous evening of too much to eat and drink, lovely strangers, much hilarity and Pierre Hermé puddings (I will never, not if I live to be 487 years old, be able to host a party a tenth as good as Trish's), weepette and I curled up in a slightly boozy heap of limbs in hôtesse's youngest child's bed (this angelically lovely child has already given up her bed for me twice), with this view:


(not strictly accurate, they've turned off the lights by half 2 when we finally made it to bed, but it's even prettier like this)

Paris. You are really pretty lovely (as long as one does not dress like a hobo or have impertinent children, thereby ruling me out most of the time). And I didn't even get a St Honoré aux Framboises for saying that.

Friday, 19 February 2010

1,2,3 Whine

My poor blog is looking a little neglected which is nice, since I am always looking for more things to feel obscurely guilty about. Sorry. I am fighting a rearguard action against despair (Sorry, what's that? Perhaps I shouldn't have ditched the anti-depressants in quite so cavalier a fashion last year? Yes, probably). I don't know how I forgot about the perpetual shiteness of February. I was firmly on my guard against January dejection and cruised through with gritted teeth, clever planning and lots of cheap confectionery, but then February came and the light fooled me in to thinking it was getting to be spring when it's not. Not even slightly. Fuck OFF winter. Today the skies in Brussels are a sort of deep pewter colour, with occasional bouts of whipping rain for variety. I have been driving around some of the more unsightly bits and there were moments when the grey buildings and the sky seemed to merge into one. You know, like it's supposed to on Carribean beaches, except with dirty grey instead of cerulean blue.

Aaaaanyway. I am having First World Problems evening tonight, because, as you can probably discern, I am absolutely brimming with them, each more trivial and pathetic than the last. And we haven't done First World Problems for ages, so it must be time. Before I launch in, though, here are a few nice things, because I am ridiculously over-privileged really and have a nice life and all that.

Delphic were very excellent live this week. I recommend. They are not unsightly to look at either, which always helps. Also, gigs in Belgium are usually teeny weeny and this was no exception, which means you can get stalkerishly close. Often bands look puzzled to find themselves in Belgium, as well they might, and it seems to the observer as if they haven't got a clue where they are or why. Delphic were no exception, but they did a good set anyway.

I made masala lamb chops (yes, I know Ramsay is an arse, but they looked tasty). They look good. I have put them in the freezer, because I started drinking gin when I was supposed to be eating yesterday and the whole dinner thing got a bit forgotten in a morass of shitty French tv and self-pity. But Sunday night will be masala lamb chop night, and that is a very good thing indeed.

I love Julian Casablancas's album. Yes, I am a few months late on this. That is because I live in Belgium, the spiritual (and desired fiscal) home of Johnny Halliday and things take a very very long time to get here through that scary hole in the ground under the sea. This and this especially make me very happy walking the dog, and it takes a lot to make me happy walking the dog, which is a hateful business full of mud and sticks and enforced conversation with lunatics, and not at all the elegant saunter to a pavement cafe I always imagined.

There are now two music things in this list (and Vampire Weekend on Monday, hurrah) which makes me very edgy indeed, because music related posts always degenerate horribly. Moving on!

I am going to Paris tomorrow for dinner. Hurray, hurray hurray. I will be tying the dog (yes, he's coming) to a tree outside Ladurée and emptying the place of St Honoré aux Framboises and violet éclairs.

My bedroom is an endless source of delight.

Right, enough of the Polyanna crap. This is not why you come here.

My first world problems. Please do add your own.

1. Clothing problems

The light says 'spring' and my brain believes it. From in here you can't tell it's 2°, so I skip out in - real example from this morning follows - an ultra thin cotton sleeveless tshirt and a cropped cotton jacket, with ballet flats. Erreur fatale. I had to shelter in Bricorama for warmth and ended up buying a storage heater and 33 lightbulbs to justify my presence.

Worse even than coldness, are the light-induced wardrobe disasters. Somehow, the things I have been wearing all winter have ceased to cut it and I am trying to get clever with my clothes with unspeakable results. Monday, I recall, was particularly atrocious. Some kind of hideous, unkempt and slightly gothic combo of far too short black skirt, black APC blazer (lovely, but with a hole in the shoulder) and beautiful but somehow wrong Philip Lim top. Tuesday was not much better, with me attempting this sleeveless dress with a long sleeved tshirt in a way that might have worked on someone ten years younger and more dikdik like. The change of season thing is always tricky. I should just brazen it out in my opaques and shrouds until May at the earliest, really. I can't buy anything else, ever. EVER, I tell you.

2. Transport problems

It would be tasteless to elaborate on this to any extent because the reasons are properly terrible, but it will take me over three hours and two changes to get to Paris tomorrow, and the same back on Sunday, which means getting up wrongly early with what will doubtless prove to be a disgusting hangover. Also, there is no way of getting hold of Eurostar tickets at the moment, they are simply not selling them, so how exactly I will be getting to London next Thursday is somewhat mysterious. I will however be getting there even if it kills me.

3. Incompetence

I have done plenty of practical things for the house, but nowhere near enough writing recently, which makes me cross. Chapter 8 has had to be stamped on very hard and broken into tiny fragments. It is necessary but depressing to end up with less words. I still have no driving licence, ID card or health insurance piece of plastic following my late November wallet theft. This is ridiculous. I am ridiculous. I have all this time and I am piteously bad at making the most of it.

4. Gloom

I am less good at being on my own than I thought. I think I had failed to factor in the 'only at work 2 days a week' part, which means that I could, theoretically see NOONE but the caissières at Delhaize and the elderly dog walkers for 5 days. This doesn't happen, of course, I force people to talk to me. But my belief in my own suitability for a hermit-like life has been fractured. The habit of living with someone, built up over 16 years, is hard to shake, and I was stupid and complacent and short-sighted to think it wouldn't be an issue for me. It is. The house is very empty now, when the boys have been away for over ten days. The dog helps, a little. But there's no point in commenting to the dog on the idiocy of Belgian tv, all he will do is bring me a half chewed slipper in the vanishingly small hope that I might throw it for him.

Compounding the loneliness, I am carrying all manner of guilt at the moment about a myriad transgressions and stupidities and selfishnesses. I should be a catholic, at least I could go and get ashed and be properly penitent. Instead I just mope.

Also, I do miss the children. I feel a bit unmanned by their absence, if that makes sense. Unmothered. Aimless. That isn't a first world problem, per se, but at least I know they are playing Nintendo and having swimming lessons, and according to Fingers, eating different kinds of sausages every day at their grandparents. And haven't been kidnapped to be child soldiers or whatever. So I give this one semi-first world status only.

5. Truly trivial

You can't buy turmeric in Brussels. ANYWHERE.

I still loathe the haircut.

Everyone has been watching fabulous appointment tv in the UK this week (my Big Fat Gipsy Wedding, the Brits), and all I have to amuse me is po-faced reportage about dodgy white goods repairmen and French farmers in spas in paper pants. I need Brain Twin to come and sort me out some dodgy downloads NOW before I start clawing at the textured salmon walls.


Ok, that's me. I could go on infinitely, but I think you deserve a turn.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

On housework and capybara mating habits

Yeah, so yesterday. One minute I was wondering half-heartedly if I should try and do something with my newly constructed chest of drawers, and suddenly it was four hours later and when I regained consciousness, I was manically ironing the ribbon trim on a pair of knickers (subliminally influenced by reading this yesterday, I think. I'm very suggestible). Thank god this kind of anally retentive fugue state doesn't happen to me often, but I now have a fairly tidy bedroom and the dressing room apparently has a floor, who knew? Flush with the success of, er, putting underwear into drawers, I have branched out into hanging all the pictures that have been knocking about on the floor since November. You would never guess I have an article to write, would you? Displacement activity is grand.

Someone requested more pictures of the Salmon Palace, so here are a couple with My New BED, constructed on Monday night (my rôle: stand around, get things wrong whenever I tried to 'help', generally be a waste of space, remove bolts from the dog's mouth occasionally). They are very far from impressive, remind me never to work for an estate agent.


Bedroom:



More bedroom (check out those salmon trims! Mmmmmm):




Look no mantlepiece pile:

Ok, it's not exactly tidy, but there's a floor.

And here's the kitchen (the tidying binge did not extend to downstairs):



And the rest of the downstairs:



Are you bored yet? Or faintly repulsed?

Dr Capybara is working on your problems, we might be back later if he's in the mood. I have been studying the sex life of the capybara in order to try and understand him better. It's been quite revelatory, though I may never be able to look him in the eye again, knowing what I do about the life-span of capybara sperm. Apparently the female capybara holds all the cards in capy couplings and can choose whether to mate simply by emitting a whistling noise through her nostrils. "If she does not wish to copulate with a certain individual, she can either submerge more deeply or exit the water entirely". Moreover, the dominant male has a tricky time keeping his females in line. "Because of the high speed of coupling and the low speed of the capybara" says my source, drily, "the dominant male cannot prevent all coupling by subordinates". No wonder the good doctor is in such a filthy mood most of the time. I also note that "breeding of capybaras has historically been difficult due to the high incidence of infanticide". Don't let him babysit for you, will you?

Compare and constrast this from Hadley Freeman in today's Guardian, which struck such a chord I nearly cried:

Ask a British person for a date, and they are more likely to hand you a dried fruit. British people do not date. They pull. This rather more violent verb conveys the more chaotic approach to romance than you might have known in your home country. The British method of coupling is as follows: go to a party, get extremely drunk, drunkenly kiss someone you have been making eyes at for some time but obviously never spoke to ­because you were sober then, go home with them, move in with them the next day, marry them.


I mean, it's all very well when you're 19, but it's not quite so impressive when you're 35 is it? But it's the only way I know, and god, it's pathetic. It's astonishing we've managed to avoid extinction as a nation thus far (probably solely due to our impressive rates of teen pregnancy. Way to go, Britain!). I mean, I'd rather be a capybara and just whistle through my nostrils. I might just try it. I suppose it might only attract capybaras, but that's a risk I'm willing to take.

Monday, 15 February 2010

In which I fill in a form

The exceptionally considerate people at my insurance company are very anxious I shouldn't get bored, and have provided me with an interesting green form.

Figure 1: The green form.





The green form, which must be completed by, er, today on pain of losing all insurance coverage, relates to a minor accident in March 2007. The accident was so minor, I would describe it less as an accident, more as a minor falling over. The kind of thing that happens to me all the time. The full extent of this sorry tale, is that I fell over on the way to work and banged my arse so hard I couldn't sit down on arrival at the office. This brought with it several layers of humiliation - the discussion with the work doctor, the arse prodding, the arse xray, but worst of all was the initial few minutes when someone decided they should call the on-duty work first-aider. To look at my arse. Of course, the "accident" happened on a day when my female office mate, also a first-aider, was out. Instead I got some youth in his early twenties, who appeared diffidently in my office, looking just as mortified as I felt. I spared us both the agony of him trying to examine my broken arse by insisting, in a diva-like fashion, on the doctor being summoned.


Aaaaanyway. Some bastard insisted that since I fell on my arse on the way to work, it was officially a "workplace accident", a decision which has generated many reams of paperwork that I have strenuously ignored for the past 3 years. However, the green form just refuses to go away, so for your entertainment and my continued insurance cover, I have to fill it in.


Note, in Figure 1 above, that the green form helpfully suggests at section III, question 8, you might wish to append a diagram of the accident to your description. Quite right, Mutualité Neutre! I DO want to. Actually, I have three diagrams, then one more of my "lésions". Watch out.


First, an overview of the scene of The Incident, setting out some of the dangerous combination of factors leading to the accident.

Figure 2: Le Lieu


The green thing is a rabbit shaped fridge magnet. Oh, it's very high tech round here.

Further detail in Figures 3-5 for those too lazy to click on the picture and enlarge the details:

Figure 3

Figure 4:


Figure 5:


Figure 6: Les éléments contribuants


Figure 7: Close up detail of Figure 6


Figure 8: Le déroulement des faits (watch out, this bit is scary):



And finally, in Figure 9 details of "Les Lésions":




Are we all clear on all of that? Watertight, non? Or do you need me to do a photo-reenactment using Pokemon action figures?

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Lenten vows

Back home. It's been several hours, but I haven't managed to take my coat off. I can't work out if that's the cold, or some kind of psychological thing, like a disapproving matron in Coronation Street. "I'm not stopping", pursed lips, coat buttoned up, handbag on knees in the front parlour.

Either way, it is very quiet here, smells of empty house and the remote controls have all vanished. How can that be? God knows, it's not as if Belgabastard TV has anything I can bear to watch, but I was looking for a little distraction. I've just had to spend half an hour playing the piano (yes, still in my coat) instead to take my mind off wandering what the fuck I am suddenly doing in a cold, empty orange house in the south of Brussels.

Is it Lent, yet, blogosphère? Because I need to give some stuff up, I think. I have certainly eaten enough cheap microwaveable pancakes for it to be Lent, so let's give it a go. Lent, despite my dyed in the wool godlessness, seems preferable to New Year's resolutions, probably because of the way it is framed entirely negatively. I can really get behind a series of negatives, something which is unlikely to surprise you.

Consequently I renounce:

1. Last minute Eurostar tickets. So eye-wateringly dear and such a visible manifestation of my own stupidity.

2. Stalking the twitter feed of people whose twitter feed I should leave well alone. This includes: nutters, people I hate and failed romantic entanglements. This applies even more pressingly to anyone who falls within all three categories.

3. Expensive Indian takeaways. Whatever I order, it always ends up being 50 euros which is plainly ridiculous. I can make better dahl than that anyway and that's all I really want. Hmmm. I will never manage to make chapatis (I tried once, they were like chamois leather, and that 'puffing up over a naked flame' business is lunacy), but there must be some sacrifice, I suppose.

4. Peanut Butter Chunky KitKats. This is confectionery as self-harm. Thankfully I was running so late for my train, I didn't have time to stock up.

5. Overuse of capital letters.

6. The following websites: Liberty, Matches, ASOS, Net à Porter, Start London, Made in Design. I haven't bought anything for ages, but I still torment myself with pictures of pretty things. Oh, wow, that really backfired. I just got distracted by trying to find all the lovely Vanessa Bruno things I was stroking pervily in Harvey Nichols. Man, there was some beautiful, hideously priced stuff. Step away from the pretty dresses, lady. (Those of you who kindly complimented me on my in-box dress, it is Vanessa Bruno. She's clever - you don't have to be a droopily exquisite French chick to look good in Vanessa Bruno. It helps, obviously, but she won't hold it against you if you look like a busty, mean, garden gnome)

7. Buying underwear. I seem to be buying underwear like some people go to the gym or have new hairdos when they have a break-up, but however psychologically important it may have been, now it just has to stop. I'm pretty sure I now have enough to withstand whatever underwear nuclear winter I am seeking to protect myself against.

8. Cheap supermarket pancakes with salted butter. So delicious and so lacking in goodness. I am salivating like Pavlov's dog just typing that, I really need to get a grip.

Let me know if you are giving anything up for Lent. Also, please submit your problems for Dr Capybara who is out of hibernation, and very very angry.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Catch up

Sorry, two days with no self-absorbed nonsense, gloom or abuse of capital letters, you must be completely bereft.

I am in London chasing my tail round in small circles (I do not have a tail though I do have an incipient mullet). Thus far I have acquired a "hair"cut I hate, lovely new eyebrows and some Anthropologie goose measuring cups, because nothing says painless trip home than bulky, heavy, breakable items. Do not ask me for pictures of the new haircut, first I need to get over my deranged desire to chop more of it off myself with a blunt pair of children's scissors. Ooooh, my fingers are twitching as I write that, clearly the desire hasn't passed yet ('it can't be that hard', say the voices in my head 'I mean, what does he do, exactly? Twists it around a bit and chops. I can do that!'. I am trying to silence them because as we all know, this would not end well). I am also busy metabolising a whole roast chicken and gigantic trifle from last night, like a python after a particularly plump and chewy gazelle, so the demented weight loss plan is not going so well. Self-esteem is at a fairly low ebb, I could easily collapse in a heap of sulky (and yes, ok, slightly hungover) tears, but then I slap myself round the head with a bit of perspective and try and get over myself.

Yet again, I am getting full value from my Oyster card, wandering from Tooting to Chelsea to Chiswick, to Soho and back again. Chelsea is stupidly pretty, isn't it? I hardly ever go to the pretty bits of town (Notting Hill excepted), what with my weird, kneejerk inherited class hatred and fear of Fulham, but Chelsea was like a London theme park in the watery winter sunshine, pastel mews houses and ruddy cheeked oligarchs' children in navy gym skirts running around obscenely large playing fields with hockey sticks. You don't get that kind of thing in Brussels. Other things you don't get in Brussels: cheap, flat shoes that aren't hideous, Marks & Spencer prepacked fruit and veg (yeah, I know I'm making the earth cry), Kulu Kulu sushi, Bobbi Brown eyeliner, nicely dressed girls so drunk they can barely walk or talk. My people!

It was lovely to be back in the east end of Soho (here), near where we used to live. I kept expecting to see Maria, our most excellent downstairs neighbour, stalking down the street muttering. Maria, in her mid 70s when we first met, worked four nights a week in an undisclosed Italian on Frith Street (the other three nights were spent in West End casinos accumulating anecdotes about George Best), doing god only knows what. I think her duties were mainly 'transporting the takings to the bank in her zip up boot', and 'fomenting alarming, probably racist, gossip'. She was always full of incomprehensible stories of restaurant feuds, Triad attacks and severed limbs. I always wanted to know more about Maria's early years, as nanny to Ron Hubbard's children, but she was very evasive. She was the best neighbour ever, always taking us to Spaghetti House for dinner, shoving twenty pound notes into my protesting hands, and regaling us with puzzling tales of ageing tarts and ancient actors buying her dinner in the Golden Nugget. When we sold the flat I was anxious how she and Bambi, the world's most obese stray cat, large, round and fluffy like a giant white angora cushion, would manage with the new neighbours, and whether they would go and buy Bambi's M&S organic chicken mini-fillets and Harrods milk. I need not have worried, they were soon even more favoured than we were, constantly fending off canneloni and crystal bonbon baskets. Actually, when we left, Maria was perfectly content, with the five other flats all filled with combinations of quiet, well-dressed gay men.

Holed up in Chiswick today, I don't even plan to get dressed until tonight. I might go to Sainsbury's in my pyjamas just to test their attitude to nightwear. I have, however, promised not to use my brother's stairlift, tempting as it is. I don't think I'm much, if any help here, but at least I can stack the dishwasher and dispense hugs. Soon I'll have watched enough Reuters tv to discourse intelligently on the state of the bonds market for oooh, ten seconds. Be afraid, be very afraid. Currency hedge! Peanut futures! Or, er, something.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

New Bed

My new bed arrived! The big, beautiful womblike bed I have been waiting for since October.


This bed.



Fantastic news!


Oh.

Hang on.





What, seriously?






It would seem so.




I have none of that shit on your drawing, Habitat. It's science fiction to me. I have a thing called a ratchet screwdriver that I can't operate, and a hammer.




Hmm. Let's look closer.







Really, Habitat? No scissors, Stanley knives, sharp cutting things? How would you like me to open the box? Shall I stroke it open? Tickle it? Use interpretative dance to terrify it open? Also, in what way is an umbrella a good illustration of a thing that is fragile? Next time, use a DikDik. They're prettier and way more breakable.


I opt for trying to rip the box open with my hands. It hurts. I find this in the box:






Those smug little bastard men, just like the Ikea ones. Two of you fuckers? In overalls? 1-2 hours? What the fuck is this bed, the Large Hadron Collider? Note the reddish smear. That is blood. I cut myself OPENING THE BOX. Does this tell you everything you need to know about whether I am qualified - me and my twin, in or out of overalls - to build a flat pack? I think it does. I bleed on one of the side panels, and have to try and rub it off. Out of the corner of my eye I read on the leaflet "If your piece of furniture becomes stained DO NOT try to rub. Dab clean with a damp cloth". Fuck you, Habitat.


I empty the box, just to see what's in there. Pieces of bed lie everywhere, taunting me. The most appealing thing in the room is suddenly the empty box. I have never seen a box this large. The obvious thing to do is to get into the box.



It really is an exceptionally roomy box. Definitely a two person box. A double box, if you will.


I arrange myself like a 15th century stone nobleman on a tomb in York Minster. It is very restful.




There is plenty of room for the faithful hound to curl up at my feet in the box tomb, in authentic fifteenth century style. Mystifyingly, the faithful hound prefers the mattress.




Note that I STRIPPED THE BED. I truly believed I was sleeping in my new bed tonight. I had picked out clean sheets and everything.



I snuggle deeper into my box, making a pillow out of polystyrene film.




I think I might just stay in my cardboard sarcophagus until, say, May. That seems the safest solution. Just wake me up when I'm solvent and sane and the sun has come out. Ok?

Monday, 8 February 2010

Moscow, again

A wind of slavic melancholy is blowing across the frozen steppes of Uccle today. I feel I need a large, droopy moustache to do it justice. Maybe a pipe. Certainly vodka. I imagine it looks a little like Antonia's fantastic film. If you are in the mood for uplifting, feeling a little fragile and in need of light entertainment, click away now. Maybe go and read this article, which I really enjoyed. That lady would not allow herself to get mired in moustache wearing gloom.


The icy spiritual chill is probably partly attributable to my deciding I need to lose some weight this week. Yes, just this week, I find the urge passes very rapidly regardless of whether I obtain results or not. I bought Elle Belgique on the strength of its quixotic cover promise of a one week detox, only to cast it aside at the first mention of 'bouillon'. Screw bouillon. I favour more radical methods, like, having a bath at dinnertime so that I get too sleepy and dazed to bother with food, or not leaving my desk all day. No, you are quite right, voices of reason. This is not sensible behaviour for a former bulimic. But then neither is mainlining cupcakes and peanut butter Chunky KitKats, which has brought me to this point. And to these chins.


Is this a sign of poor mental health? Yes, probably. It usually is. I am a little sad and a lot anxious. Work is tricky, family members are distressingly far away when I want to be round the corner and of some use to them, progress on writing projects is nil and the future seems to sit on the horizon like an ominous Brussels raincloud. On top of that, I had such a hard time saying goodbye to the boys today, especially as half term means I won't see them for a fortnight. Things have been so busy and fraught over the past few months, that I haven't really had time to miss them. I do now, even though things haven't really calmed down that much. A bit like coming off anti-depressants, the effect of spending less time with them didn't hit me immediately, but it has crept up, insidiously. I am in withdrawal and it's hard. I'm in London for most of this week, and that's a quick, radical fix - busy, gregarious, with time spent squeezing my niece and nephew. But I live here, and I will for the foreseeable future. I need to find better ways of coping. I need to get out and get over myself, and I sort of am. Just, not on Siberian Mondays.

I looked at my hand this morning when I reached the office and saw this:


Not the mysterious blue waffle infection.


The pattern of green dots that Fingers for mysterious reasons all his own, drew all over his hand and arm this morning, had transferred to me. Transferred because he won't let go of my hand, nor me of his. He barely let go of me all weekend, and today I feel like I have a limb missing.


God, how depressing (incidentally, I am very sorry but I am too much of a miserable chaotic bastard to cope with Cruel biscuits this week, so Vicious Valentines are off). I'll try and perk things up a little soon, rather than dragging you down in a swirl of Tchaikovsky's 6th and facial hair. If I'm still this miserable tomorrow you have permission to brain me with the nearest samovar.


(And no, I don't know what the fuck is up with the oddly large font.)

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Placing an ad in The Belgian Lady

I'm amusing myself in my squalid pit tonight by adding refinements to my rent-a-person (mother, wife, unjudgmental general factotum). I am bent and crotchety like Richard III in a hoodie. It's quite, quite charming. I would definitely have to pay someone to keep me company. I wouldn't really want staff, although the idea is quite seductive in the abstract (and a frequent shared fantasy with M and Mrs Trefusis). I would find it weird and oppressive, I expect and spend my time in an agony of guilt, awkwardness and mild irritation. Mrs Woolf and The Servants is brilliant on this (I did like that book). Anyway, since we are firmly in the realm of fantasy, the list of duties stands currently as follows:

- Come round and have "a quick tidy up" (twice weekly, Marigolds provided)

- Stroke my forehead and say 'there there, it's ok, you're doing fine' (ad hoc, as required)

- Discourage me from eating 7 cupcakes in a row by their mere presence

- Make cups of tea (constant. It's one of my very favourite things about having my sister or Prog Rock to stay, the endless stream of hot beverages not made by me)

- Walk the dog when bits of me fall off (about twice weekly again)

- Tell me when I am wearing food stained clothes (this would have to be daily - a quick 2 minute outfit check)

- cook a proper meal (once a week is quite sufficient for this. More and I would implode with pathetic gratitude. Noone needs to see that)

- Collect me from the station. I have become bizarrely obsessed with this in recent months. It seems the height of luxury to have someone collect you from the station. Apart from trips to York, when Prog Rock is almost always standing somewhere on Platform 3 smoking a sneaky B & H, noone has collected me from a station or airport since dinosaurs roamed Uccle. Yet lately, when I get off my Eurostar, I find myself casting a wistful glance at the waiting huddle, knowing there can't possibly be anyone waiting for me, and yet bizarrely hoping there might be (who? God knows). Not the corporate ones with misspelt name signs, but the actual people, coming to collect their actual people, carry their bags, give them a hug, spirit them away.

I remember coming back from my first proper trip by myself (a month in Morocco aged 16) and my mum meeting me at Heathrow. When I came through arrivals, at first I couldn't see her, I recall. I remember scanning the barriers to try and see her, and almost getting to the point of being a tiny bit anxious, when she stepped out from behind a pillar. It was, she told me, a trick my father had taught her - to hide for a moment. He's a wicked tease, my father. I think I probably started romanticising being met from a train or plane at this point, and I have never stopped (I've never tried the hiding trick myself, though. I'm not good at deferred gratification). I used to collect the CFO from Heathrow all the time during the Oxford Misery Years, dashing up the M40 at suicidal speed and standing in Terminal 2, sometimes with a silly handmade sign. I want someone to do that for me sometimes, especially the late trains, when I am carrying five plastic bags of cheap chocolate and paperbacks and wearing unsuitable shoes. I want to walk along the dingy, grey, striplit corridor of the Gare du Midi and actually see someone who is (paid to look) glad to see me. There's a French novel that I haven't read, but that was in all the bookshops I ever went into for a while called "Je voudrais que quelqu'un m'attende quelquepart", and it seems to be lodged in my psyche. I want someone to wait for me somewhere.

- bring me my toothbrush when I accidentally get into bed too early in the evening and can't get out again (I want one of those buttons on a string round my neck for this, like those "Mrs Hope knows help is coming" adverts from the back of the Sunday supplements c1985. "Uuuuugh! I have a dental hygiene emergency! Help! And, er, can I have a hot water bottle now you're here?").

What do you think? Am I likely to get any applicants? I can pay, oooh, thirty centimes and all the bowls you can carry. Place your own personal ad for staff in the comments box.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Modern life is lovely

There are so many reasons why living in the age of the internet is awesomely wonderful. In recent weeks, I would particularly single out the following (and thank you to those who provided some of them):

Single Ladies dance tutorials (these got me through the low points of Christmas)

Evil seagulls (not suitable for those of a sensitive disposition, or pig lovers)

Owl in a fridge (the almost-worthy successor to Owl In A Box)

A DikDik with no sense of personal space.

And last night, in a blaze of feathery, dairy glory, Butter German Shepherd.


The City Road noted, very perceptively, that it looks oddly like Lionel Richie. Especially Lionel Richie sculpted by the blind chick in the video for 'Hello' (also available to you thanks to the awesomeness of being alive in 2010)

As a result, and in a fit of ill-judged enthusiasm I have agreed to sculpt Queen Fabiola, the Belgian queen mother, in butter. She of the unfeasibly high Mekon forehead and giant cloud of purple hair.


Look, here she is:



I think hair accounts for approximately 63% of her by volume and weight.

It might take me a while. So far I have managed this:





I will post the finished masterpiece later. My blood alcohol level is too low for this degree of creativity.

I need all the ridiculousness the internet has to offer. I am headachy and self-loathing and unproductive in all fields but cupcake eating. Some stupidly expensive tickets I should never have bought have been misdelivered meaning that I can't fucking well resell them. So that's cough-nearly three hundred quid-cough worth of my own idiocy staring me in the face. No, please don't tell me what I could have bought with this money, I am suffering enough. Instead, I am telling myself I have bought a valuable lesson about not being a total dickhead. Self-knowledge is, after all, a prize beyond rubies. Or something. This Saturday will be tinged with regret that Cruel Tea can't go to this mad event at Liberty - we applied, but the short notice and our being several hundred miles apart has prevented it. Shame, since it sounds potentially very hilarious. If anyone goes along, can they tell me about it? Ah well, at least it is 2010 and I can sulkily watch DVDs in bed tonight with a vodka tonic rather than throwing myself under the wheels of a train. And the children can play Nintendo rather than hanging themselves in cupboards because they are "too menny".

Right, I am going to stop whining and try and hack a path through the piles of strip cartoons, dinosaur magnets and baking supplies to the kitchen. Let's reconvene later for sophisticated butter sculpture.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

On maize peanuts and parent rental

I was going to write something chin-strokingly earnest today I think, but it's all gone. I do know it was going to be about the frontier regions between solitude and loneliness and fervently wanting to be alone. And how an online presence, existence mediates it. But bugger it. You can read this, which is lovely and thoughtful, or this (which brought me out in a cold sweat). They are both interesting. I might even come back to it when I have a functioning brain, if I can find a way of doing so without sounding like a sad, pathetic bastard (ssssh). Right now, I have an incipient migraine, the house looks like a crime scene, targeted by vicious, sadistic burglars with a penchant for shredding paper*. The children are wandering round with maize peanuts stuck to their faces.

Figure 1:



Figure 2:




Incidentally, can I make a brief public service announcement? DO NOT BUY MAIZE CONSTRUCTION PEANUTS. I can go into the details if you wish, but please believe me. A thousand tiny pellets of insanity in each container. Thank you.
(Thought I must say actually even maize peanut facial hair was a mercy, compared with the collected works of Nickelodeon's online games showcased here tonight, which seem to largely feature belching.)


Tonight, yes. I do want someone else around to let me have a twenty minute lie down while the Migraleve takes effect. And maybe make me a cup of tea. Actually, I think what I really want is a mother. A Rent-A-Mother. Better than a lover, a friend, a co-parent. Even better than a cleaning lady. I bet I'm not the only one who would pay for this service and it wouldn't be the worst job in the world ever. All you need to do is a little light clearing up, spoil some children, make tea and toast and stroke my forehead for ten minutes whilst saying "there, there, it will all be alright". I wouldn't feel bad about paying for that. Obviously, if she felt compelled to tut at my ironing pile and go at it with a can of spray starch and a vigorous elbow, I wouldn't stand in her way. And if she happened to feel the urge to fill the freezer with balanced nutritious meals, well, it would be churlish to protest. But mainly I want my forehead stroked and someone else to have a quick tidy up last thing at night. The quick late night tidy up seems to trail on for hours, sucking the last dribble of sanity out of me, as I remove 18 maize peanuts from the dog's mouth, 80000 plastic figurines and a bowl of orange slime from the bathroom, and a fistful of hula hoops from my purse.


I might get her to just quickly finish off this post too, since I don't seem to be able to. And maybe she could think of a jokey title using the word 'parental'. Yeah, that would be handy. Ok, where do I place my ad?




(*The CFO wondered whether I would be hideously messy or OCD tidy in my new house, saying it would definitely be one or the other. Um. I think I can now confirm I am not OCD tidy. But it's not terribly easy to be tidy with no furniture! And, er, my bedroom is still very tidy. Most of the time. )