Sunday, 24 April 2011

Minor adventures in consumerism

1. Happy easter! Look, here is a gigantic egg with a hand-painted Atomium on it (I wish cows did graze in the shade of the giant burnished balls. I love this vision entirely). I quite wanted to roll it home with me. I have not had very much chocolate today. I managed to eat enough Daim eggs by mid March that the whole idea of chocolate faintly revolts me, not that this stopped me shoving odd leftovers mechanically down my gullet until my head is actually tired of the sound of chewing (that genuinely happened this morning). I need to have my jaw wired, or find myself a tapeworm. Or both. Or perhaps I should learn how to hand sew my own sack dresses (ok, this one is even more unlikely than a tapeworm)? I look bad. Very very very bad.

2. In more cheerful news, my coffee machine has risen again! It only deigned to do so after I brought it to the Nespresso shop, where it was regarded with intense disdain and my "régime de detartrage" (limescale removal regime) subjected to intense and sceptical scrutiny. I lied like un arracheur de dents. "Oh yes, four monthly. That's exactly what I do".

"Bon" said the flight attendant lady with distaste and resignation. "Since you have brought it in - in contravention of our advised procedure - I will test it for you".

Taking protective gloves and several miles of kitchen roll, to protect her from the contagion of my poorly maintained machine, she plugged it in, using only her fingertips, and with an exaggerated expression of revulsion, and tested it. It worked, of course. Bastard. Nespresso 10,000: Emma nil. I reckon it's actually preprogrammed to do that, just to reinforce the fact that you know nothing and George Clooney owns you.

(You are delighted that I keep you up to date with the health of my domestic appliance, yes? This is what you come here for)

3. I went to the Ikea on Good Friday, which I am sure is what the Lord had in mind, so now I have a desk! Well. Let's be clear. I have two large cardboard boxes in the hall that may or may not contain the necessary to construct a desk, and then only if one of the boxes contains a tiny handyman you can reconstitute with half a pint of cold water and a handful of kanelbullar. I do, however, have a garden table and two mismatched Bargain Corner garden chairs, so I can confidently predict that this unseasonally gorgeous weather will end within days and the rest of the summer will be spent going gently mouldy with the heating on. Ikea was quite painless, until:

(a) I had the usual attack of Ikea dysphoria ("This one or this one? What does it matter, they are ALL THE SAME and we are all destined to end up as compressed hardboard dust in a Anømie
occasional table!") round about the picture frames and plastic plants, and had to fight the impulse to put everything back and curl up under a pile of winter weight duvets crying gently; and

(b) I was once again, as always, subjected to the self-scanning spot check, and found to my shame to have failed to scan a €0,79 flannel. It was quite shaming, even though I had spent several hundred € on a range of essential tat and the security guard was pink with embarassment too.

Anyway. I am enjoying my table for the few scant hours the weather holds and at some point in the next five years, perhaps I will build a desk. Who knows? I like the idea of the desk. "Everything" I tell myself "Will be so much more manageable with a desk!". It seems a shame to shatter this optimistic vision against the harsh reality that it will be the same hopeless bag of distraction, procrastination, despair and bird wedcam addiction that will be sitting at it. For as long as it sits in a box in the hall, the hope remains.

4. Easter Sunday has gone off relatively painlessly considering.

Considering what, you ask, in your ones, and possibly twos?

Considering the following:

- I only got to bed at three, following an evening of Czech cinema and accompanying Eastern bloc refreshments. The film didn't last until three, but afterwards we needed more restorative vodka to cope with the absence of hope it engendered, and then I had first to organise the elaborate egg treasure hunt Lashes had stipulated most explicitly by telephone earlier in the week, and second, to spend half an hour catching up with the easter hatchings chez Ted and Sylvia Slechtvalk and Paul and Linda Ooeivaar (Miss Underscore's names). The former actually made me cry a bit. What? It was 3am and I had watched an unremittingly grim tthough actually quite good) film about a Czech secret policeman and had to place and remember a complex series of egg clues over 4 floors through a haze of hard liquor and stupidity. It was very heartening to watch the wobbly peregrine chicks dismember their first small mammal (M is rolling her eyes at this point. Birdcam has caused a rip in the fabric of our brain twinnage).

- I got the popping candy eggs because I thought they both liked them. Turns out Fingers no longer likes them, and with each egg he found, his face fell further. "WHY did the cloches bring me eggs I don't like???" he muttered, mournfully. Parenting fail number 8000000 in an occasional series. I am very glad they are back, anyway. I have missed them viscerally this week, for some reason. They are more glad that I acceded to them buying Rio Angry Birds, but everyone is happy, anyway. Tomorrow we are going on a Family Trip Out to the Scary Bat Caves and I am almost certainly the person who is most excited about it by a considerable margin. Will the capybaras have once again made a bid for freedom and be wandering around the picnic area in furious scorn? Will we take a free range snake home (there is a mocked up ranch part where you can go in and poke snakes who are not even in cages, entirely unsupervised)? Quite possibly.

- Oscar was far faster at finding eggs in the garden than either child, predictably. He has not learnt any type of lesson from the previous popping candy egg unfortunateness, and is still nosing round for forgotten ones.

- I skinned two toes falling upstairs and ran out of swear words into which to channel the pain. Sorry, Jesus.

5. Why is it that after 5 years in Belgium and eighteen years of legal alcohol purchase, I still feel filled with shame when I buy booze in a supermarket? What the hell is that all about? Is it a Quaker thing? It feels more like an 'I am only faking this adulthood business and could be caught out at any time' thing, but it's definitely got non-conformist undertones too. There's some kind of incredibly judgmental Scottish presbyterian living in my brain, and he/she has an opinion on EVERY kind of booze I might buy. The Presbyterian in my head only cares about what I am buying. Everyone else can buy any variety of booze they like with impunity.

This is my hierarchy of my supermarket booze shame, from least to most (please tell me if you experience this, and where yours differs from mine. Understand that I will, and do, buy all of these. It is just the degree of mortification that varies):

- Wine (acceptable face of alcohol exemption, also used in cooking)
- Premium spirits (might be a gift?)
- Budget gin, rum (might be a party, but might also be low rent solo boozing)
- - Fizzy wine, but not champagne (possibly a gift, but whiff of the hen party/Per Una/relentlessly organised fun )
- Champagne (ostentatious, showing off)
- Budget vodka (far more likely to denote low rent solo boozing than a party)
- Wine box (dypso with pretentions)
- Pre-mixed cocktails (so naff, but so convenient)
- And this mystifies me, especially living in a place where it is not really considered alcohol at all, but as a vital staple, BEER. I am inexplicably mortified when I have to buy beer, and I cannot get to the bottom of why. What unjustifiable prejudices about beer is my brain unconsciously holding? I do not know, and I fear I cannot be truly happy in Belgium until I work it out.

Great drama, you see, here, on this bank holiday weekend. I hope yours has been peaceful and full of polyphenols.


puncturedbicycle said...

I buy Tesco own-brand vodka for (really) cleaning (windows, mirrors and such) but find the experience a little shaming, especially when there is a combined purchase of OTC drugs (co-codamol, cough syrup, antihistamines) and tampons, as though I could be imminently hysterical and self-medicating on a very strict budget.

Lisa-Marie said...

Emma, you are ashamed to buy alcohol in the supermarket because you are British, and thought it is perfectly normal to do so, we feel alcohol should be bought from an alcohol shop, not from the supermarket like we NEED IT EVERY DAY along with food.

WrathofDawn said...

I am delighted that you keep me up to date with the health of your domestic appliance, yes. This is what I come here for.

I share the alcohol guilt. I am always waiting for the hand on my shoulder, followed by a stern, "And just WHAT do you think you are DOING IN HERE???" whenever I set foot in a liquor store (which is what we "call a spade a shovel" Canadians call the stores in which you buy liquor and beer. Only beer can be purchases in convenience stores and no alcohol at all is sold in supermarkets. We are a confused bunch.).

I blame the tea-total mother.

Adrian said...

When I saw the scene on the Easter egg in the Sablon I conjured up this scene of a neolithic Brussels, where the tribes gathered together on the plains to build up a giant atomium statue out of wood. A thousand years go by, and the pre-industrial farmers rebuild the decaying statue out of bronze, the Belgian equivalent of the Colossus of Rhodes. Finally, in modern Brussels the atomium has been rebuilt in steel (actually aluminum I think), the next stage in the life of this statue which has stood since the dawn of time.

Pat (in Belgium) said...

The bottle of Cointreau I bought just last week is already empty (the week before it was a bottle of Amaretto...both are in the recycling pile; does that count for something? Anything?) -- which means that not only am I on that short, slippery slope sliding into alcoholic oblivion, I am also going to weigh a TON when I get there. (Puts a whole new spin on the phrase "hitting rock bottom".)
I have also lost count of the number of chocolate eggs consumed today (just in case all the sugary booze wasn't enough!).
So, no surprise that I'm heavier than I have ever been in my life (including pregnancy).
Just thinking about it makes me want to have a drink but it's Easter Sunday and ALL the stores are closed (unlike America where there's always something open 24/7).

WV "fecarave" ("l" missing but still too appropriate...)

Alienne said...

The only time I feel shame buying alcohol is when one of the teenagers requires me to get something ghastly for them - can you imagine the shame of buying Lambrusco, when you'd rather buy a decent whisky!

Pat (in Belgium) is clearly on the same slippery slope as me. I sank a bottle of cointreau in less than a week - I haven't got to the Amaretto yet, but there is still some vodka, gin and tequila left from the (whisper it) 17 year old's birthday cocktail party for me to finish, so plenty of time. I don't even like tequila. And like Pat, I now weigh more than I did when pregnant - and I still can't be arsed to do anything about it.

GingerB said...

Isn't Ikea the model for Big N Large, the ubiquitous store in Wall-E, sure to doom the population of the earth to having to live in space (and I hate space, by the way) when we have overwhelmed the planet with the making, reconstituting, and discarding of mostly cardboard furniture? I haven't got the balls for that place. Only the meatballs and lingonberries can make me enter there, but I am afraid I may not make it out. Say, tell us more of how to get a reconstitutable handyman. I want one. I will engage in some unholy consumerism to get one of those, and then I won't need a husband at all.

You and your readers are really enjoying your liquors a good deal more than is strictly necessary, n'est pas? From the mind of a little girl who was greeted every Easter morn not with candy but with a parent saying "the Lord is Risen" with an absolute expectation that I would answer "the Lord is Risen indeed" I am in the know on this - you are indeed drinking too much. Let me help you with that, and just pass it over here, please.

Yesterday, while you were trying to escape with a cheap flannel, I actually (absentmindedly) picked up someone's to-go order at the strip mall sushi joint when I paid the bill. I was so pleased when an employee chased me down saying "ma'am, I don't think that to-go order is yours." I suck at everything, includind drinking, which apparently I need to practice at, so I won't be so shite at it. As you say, phenol consumption may help, and we have hours left of the day, I'll try to make the most of it.

Margaret said...

I have the liquor store deliver cases of wine, so apparently, I have no shame whatsoever. Weirdly, New York State sells beer in supermarkets, so I've been used to buying it like that since I was a pimply adolescent with a terrible fake ID. Even more weirdly, we cannot buy wine in the same supermarket; I think because we are essentially a British colony at heart and feel it is unseemly (i.e., French) to buy wine where we buy food.

Tigerbaps said...

I don't get the fear when buying alcohol but feel MORTIFIED buying toilet roll in isolation. If I'm chucking it in the trolley during a Big Shop it's not so bad because it just looks like I'm maybe taking advantage of a special offer on the spur of the moment but if I go to the corner shop specifically to buy bog roll I just KNOW that the shopkeeper is thinking "Oh aye; somebody was on the curry last night".

Patience_Crabstick said...

There must be an analogy between visiting Ikea on Good Friday and doing the Stations of the Cross. "The first station: kitchenwares. Let us pray."

Wouldn't it be nice if all Ikea furniture came with a pre-packaged Swede to put it together for you?

Sewmouse said...

Bratwurst must always be boiled in beer for a 10 min. or so time before putting under the broiler or onto the barbeque grill.

Therefore, beer - like wine - is used in cooking and is therefore a legitimate purchase.

(Serve in soft white buns with lots of grilled onions and yellow mustard!)

Laurel said...

Hmm. I have always thought of myself as more British in soul than American (what I actually am), but maybe not at all, because I have no shame about buying liquor. Which is actually sort of peculiar since we're supposed to be the moralistic ones. Maybe it's just that I'm not much of a drinker most of the time.

But then again, I do get embarrassed buying tampons, because apparently I am internally 12.

Nimble said...

I am not surprised that creating the egg hunt reduced you to tears. I don't think I could have done it after suffering from cheery E. Euro cinema and too much tipple. Points to you!

There are class issues wrapped up in buying liquor too. Sometimes I'm still surprised that I'm allowed.

FFB said...

In my mind, beer is something guys buy - maybe this is what your mind thinks too and why it tricks you into feeling guilty.
Anyway, as someone already mentioned, it can be used for cooking - but I wouldn't use it for disgusting bratwurst (as the other poster suggested) or for equally disgusting 'konijn met pruimen' (rabbit with plums), but for those twice-a-year calorie-bombs which you can buy at the fun fair, called 'oliebollen' ('oil balls' - some doughnut kind of thing, but without the hole and not as dry).

Rhia said...

I hate buying this combo the most: wine, chocolate (minimum 3 bars), chocolate biscuits and tampons.
its umm embarrassing but I still do it anyway!
I always feel guilty buying booze too, anywhere in fact. Especially as I swear the people in front and behind me me on the conveyor belt, without fail, are buying only healthy things like lettuce, yoghurt, tomatoes and soya milk. never alcohol. This is in Nettos people!

Marie said...

I pretty feel the same about buying alcohol in my local supermarket which is located yards from the kids school. I'm always afraid to bump into a teacher (with the inevitable "met X's mother in the shop,no wonder that kid is a pain,his mother's on booze" kind of speech)
It's the same with chemists really. I can go miles to buy certain medications I wouldn't dare to buy in my chemists-loaded street.

I sympathize with the candy eggs story too. had my son telling his gran this very Easter week-end about "the cloches" bringing him Cars eggs which he now hates ("flash mac queen is so for babies") and my mum giving me a "why didn't you tell me" stern look (with me giving back a "how was I suppose to know Flash was out?" shrug) , the whole thing just giving me strengh to go to HER local shop on booze-hunt...

Waffle said...

Ha ha ha Marie, I had to go MILES out of my way and past 4 chemists with young male assistants to buy morning after pill a couple of years ago. That's normal behaviour, right? I think it is.

FFB - Yes. My chauvinist brain also believes it is a man's drink. My brain resides in the 1950s.

Tigerbaps - Yes. There must be no shopping that might imply ANY bodily functions.