Monday, 28 February 2011

Photo post

So, this is my attempt at reproducing Fingers's birthday cake request (cake #1, for school. Cake #2, for home, is to be "a surprise". It will indeed be a surprise to me if it is anything other than a disaster, or a shop bought quatre-quarts with half a sweet shop thrown at it. My wretched 1978 oven, the Competence Trophy, is not in a good mood, and nor, frankly, am I).

Picture:




Cake:




My version is a little more newt-like, and I suspect I will be taken to task over the absence of a clearly defined mouth, but otherwise I am satisfied. It's 40% newt, 20% Plankton from Spongebob 30% tooth decay and 10% burning martyr parent.

The house looks like this:




.. because the kitchen is simply not big enough for all my cake decorating supplies (and also because I am a feral beast). Lashes 'helped' briefly, but got distracted by a speck of dust and cracked an egg straight onto on to the floor. Fingers sifted some flour onto the dog. I spilled Thai soup into the butter. We're entirely made of culinary win in this family. Also, I like how the fact that all the downstairs electrics are fucked makes the squalor look cosy and Dickensian.

Over in Shame Corner, I think weepette is slightly regretting eating all the leftover €90 of pizza from the party:




I recognise that expression, I looked much the same on Sunday afternoon.

Lashes has this to say:



Waterstones Brussels would like to suggest this selection of children' audio books:




I had better go. Fingers will be up in about half an hour, I should think.

The answers

Well, here you go:



Is in fact:

Which I THINK means that plaintive Ginger B and Linda are our lucky winners of a packet of deformed feline biscuits OR a packet of Milka Daim Eggs. Au choix. Let me know in the comments or by email, laydeez.

I may be back later but I am up to my thorax in butter icing and fury and there is NO YELLOW COLOURING in this house. Unacceptable.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Competition time

Oh, children's birthday parties. 360 euros for 3 hours of 20 child strong torment this morning, only leavened by Fingers's glazed expression of ecstasy, and Lashes winning some plastic tat in an "endurance bouncing" competition. Three hundred and sixty euros! Why, that's half my unpaid tax bill for 2009!

Whilst lovely individually, and great at running around cheerfully without injury or argument in a windowless coverted ice rink full of health and safety defying bouncy castles, seven year olds en masse, required to sit in one place for more than thirty seconds, are FIENDS. Doubtless my enjoyment of the windowless converted ice rink and the screeching and hitting was heightened by being moderately hungover. Also, we over-ordered pizzas at the modish prize of NINETY OF YOUR EUROZONE EUROS HOLY MOTHER OF GOD (this was part of the 360, I am not Louis Quatorze, but somehow 90 euros of pizza seemed particularly outrageous, more so than 250 for "running around a cold shed", for some reason), and because they were there and we had bloody well paid for them, I ate most of them. The nine pizzas. Because I wasn't fat and prematurely aged and despairing enough already.

"Je n'aime pas la pizza" the small children said, looking at me, challengingly, judgmentally, or so I felt in my paranoid and hungover state.

"Eh, ben" I said, dead eyed and twitchy, drooling stringy, gross catering mozzarella "C'est pas grave. Il y aura du gateau".

There was gateau. I did not make it. My part in the gateau making marathon that is Fingers's birthday starts tomorrow. He has disdained the Women's Weekly Birthday Cake book, in favour of, uh, this:



.. which he has made up. I suppose it is an improvement on the Ragigigas of two years ago, which was a complete fucking ball ache.

"Well that should be easy!" said the CFO breezily, with the misplaced confidence of a man who has never taken up a palette knife in anger. I refrained from taking up my palette knife in anger.

ANYWAY. I am not here merely to whine. I have a competition for you. Because, see, I went to the Asian supermarket yesterday (pre Winegate) and bought a selection of snacks, that included some extremely fine animal biscuits. Actually, it was a rich and varied walk that produced many other delights that I will save for another time, including a bizarrely full selection of Taylors of Harrogate teas in the asian supermarket, some eccentric audio book filing in Waterstones, and an owl handwarmer that I would marry if it were legal. For now, though, let us limit ourselves to the animal biscuits, which come with the animal's name written on them in - I suppose, theoretically edible under the laxest food safety rules - black ink. You may wonder why naming them is necessary, I am here to show you:



I have stared at this for a long time. A very long time, I'd say. I've actually reached a point where I think this biscuit is EXACTLY what a panda is, and have entirely forgotten what the original creature actually looks like.

I quite like "Fur seal" too:



It looks how I feel: flabby and misshapen, with poor posture that whispers of total resignation.

In comparison to these two, "Horn Owl" and "Pea Fowl" are masterfully executed:







Elephant, I feel, has a distinctly John Merrick face, which is I suppose some kind of indicator of accuracy:




The packet promised many more treats including "Tapir" but by the time I got home from the heart of anniversaire darkness, the weepette had eaten them all. HOWEVER. That was not before I had set up the following exciting competition for you.

Take a close look at the following photograph which I have ineptly altered in a tantalising fashion:



Your job is to work out which of these is "Leopard", which is "Tiger" and which is "Cat". I would like you to know that my youngest child managed 2 out of 3, so you have that impressive score to beat.


Since I STILL owe Aye Aye lady a present (Aye Aye lady, you feature in my to do list every week, I think your present may well be a packet of these amazing biscuits, they are quite tasty actually, very like Nice biscuits), I don't think I should suggest there will be a prize. Just the satisfaction of a completely pointless task, er, done.

I am going now. I have floors to wash with my tears, and bizarre hand drawn aliens to reproduce in fondant. Have fun.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Whiiine

I am utterly broken. I dunno, it's sort of not quite physical and not quite mental, it's both. When M described her Totoro fantasy to me this morning:

"Imagine an empty room, and the only thing in it is a giant Totoro, big enough to lie down on top of, that's warm like a hot water bottle and soft as Hungarian goose down. And its chest goes up and down".

... I whimpered with longing. Imagine how lovely that would be? I would never, ever leave the house again. I reckon between making these, and importing Daim eggs into the UK, I could be quite rich quite quickly, if I had the tiniest shred of entrepreneurial spirit, which of course I don't. Increasingly as I examine my failure to progress in the world, I am reminded of Zola's Rougon-Macquart cycle (though props to me for spelling that right first time, at least something is still working in my head): I am basically the decadent dregs of initially promising genetic material. Maybe I'm just going to spontaneously combust, like Oncle Macquart? Aw. I want to go and read some of the more floridly melodramatic ones now, whilst lying on my Totoro.

As it is, I am some blend of sick and wretched, and trying to finish an exceptionally long and complex law thing I am not very proud of (yet! Let's think positively for a second! Maybe tomorrow morning it will all suddenly come together in a masterfully fluent fashion?). My brain is like a grey spongy rag, resistant to anything except 30 Rock, penguins and leaning my head against the radiator to moan gently. Prog Rock is here, languishing on the sofa. He is very tired. Even so, we have discussed Cliff Richard's sex life, heat exchange in dog paws, Mr Wickham in Pride & Prejudice, the tableaux vivant of sordid that is my back yard, Ugolino eating the bishop's brain and Ken Clarke's voting record. I am going to take him to Johnny Hallyday's favourite restaurant where you can only have steak. With special sauce. Presumably the sauce is made of collagen:



Let us, however, remember that the worst is nearly over in the northern hemisphere. It is nearly the end of February (though the mystery of what on earth to get Fingers for his 1 March birthday remains unresolved). My 4 snowdrops have been joined by 2 optimistic irises. I - and this is a MASSIVE concession from me - actually enjoyed walking the dog this evening. I am going to close this blethering nonsense by telling you all the things gmail has offered to sell me today:


Non-surgical safe stem cell knee surgery (eh??)

Labradoodles

Hijab al hob (this sounds like a recipe)

Dog boots

Swelling hands

Car rental in Iceland



Make of this what you will.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Coming home





I've been going to London a lot recently. So much so that my Lovely Editor has taken to teasing me about it.


"Are you around this weekend?"

"No, I'm .. no. You'll laugh".

"Oh, a place where we both come from but one of us doesn't believe she's left, perchance?"

"Er, no! No. Um, Budapest. Yeah, that".


There have been perfectly (semi) legitimate reasons, though of course I'll take any excuse to go walk reverently around Marks & Spencer, stroking the cashmere mix jerseys and pondering Autograph ballet pumps, to see my friends and family.

Even so, on my last few trips an odd thing has started to happen. Well, it's on the way back, really. There's a moment - and it's not the view coming into Brussels on the train of flat fields giving way to the orange glow of the sodium lit streets, it's not getting off the train, jostling down the tiny narrow staircase with 200 people with wheely suitcases, and it sure as hell isn't the taxi queue (though that has improved massively in the ten years I've been coming here) - but there's a moment when my heart lifts. It's something to do with getting into some massively decrepit taxi with a driver who will either be completely taciturn or a bit nutso and setting off under the low, ugly railway bridge, with the view of the ever-so Martin Parr bus station to your right and the view of the very top of the illuminated dome of the Palais de Justice over to your left (not in itself a thing of great beauty, being entirely covered in scaffolding now and for all time past and present, I think, it's the Brussels Forth Bridge). Perhaps the driver is listening to some chronically awful French music radio station and he's certainly asking me which way he should go, and I am saying one of two things, depending on my mood, either:

"C'est franchement comme vous le sentez, vous êtes l'expert"
(you choose, you're the expert)

or

"Prenez plutôt l'Avenue Albert et l'Avenue Brugmann, ça roule bien à cette heure-ci".
(Take Albert and Brugmann, there's no traffic at this time of night)

Then I sit back and watch the strip of Portuguese cafés and cheap hotels give way to the tram dépôt my kids love to peep into, stuffed with sleeping yellow metal and we turn up the hill along Avenue du Roi with its grandiose, crumbling art deco townhouses and crammed corner shop alimentation générales, the open sweep of the Parc de Forest, and the more manicured maisons de maître beyond, then down the other side of the hill into my neighbourhood, which is a mix of all those things, with an added hint of cobbled provincial market town.

Something about that combination of things, the familiarity of the strangeness of it, the combination of home and not home, reminds me why I wanted to live here in the first place. Why I always wanted to leave the UK, get out as fast as I possibly could. At some point in the last couple of years the upheaval and the sadness, and missing London obscured that. The homesickness - and I have, I think, been very homesick, though it's for a home that doesn't really exist any more, because what I really want is a home where I can still arrange to meet my mother in Russell Square café and watch her, tiny and neat and laden with bags, crossing the grass, shaded by the plane trees, hurrying to meet me - hid the fact that here was actually becoming home.

I don't hold the map of Brussels in my head yet like I hold London, the streets of the centre, or the tube network etched, unshakeable, into my memory, but now I can fit the bits of the city together, it has a recognisable shape. And somewhere in that vague geography, I can just about see where I fit in.

Monday, 21 February 2011

I want to be this woman

Strange times, my friends, but I will not let that distract me from low level whining and photographs of baby animals. This is my (worthless, lying, unsolicited) pledge to you.



Microscopic tragedies this week:

I think all my teeth are about to fall out - my gums are all puffy and sore. I probably have scurvy. I will be a medical curiosity. Maybe they can make me whalebone teeth to go with my fifteenth century ailment. Yes, I know it's just gum disease, I'm being melodramatic. Go with it.

I still have hair like Glenn Hoddle but I am resigned to it. I have decided that for all sorts of reasons the universe has decided I DESERVE to look like Glenn Hoddle. I accept my punishment. I think the universe is right. I am almost starting to like it, in a perverse sort of way. Shortly I will probably move on to a full '80s German footballer coiffure. If only I could grow a moustache to go with it!

I started and ended yesterday shouting. Start: "FOR GOD'S SAKE DOES NEITHER OF YOU KNOW WHERE THE BIN IS? LOOK AT ME WHEN I'M SHOUTING AT YOU!" (to, incidentally, universal indifference) End: "I ABSOLUTELY DID NOT PROMISE TO READ TWO CHAPTERS, AAAAARGH!". I hate days like that. I absolutely hate being the screeching harridan. I resolve not to be a screeching harridan, but half-term is lurking over my shoulder its fetid breath hot on my neck, and clearly any such resolution will be shattered into a million pieces as I futilely attempt to work and wrangle the children. I am, however, taking them to London for a couple of days, when I will not even attempt to work. I will just stand in the Science Museum shop with my wallet open, I expect, that should do the trick.

No-one has given me a koala to hold. I accepted a new Fessebook friend request from someone only to discover that his profile picture is him HUGGING A KOALA. I have been in a frenzy of indignation ever since. How is this even possible? Why was I not informed? Consider yourself unfriended until that Koala has me in its fluffy, eucalyptus stuffed embrace, person with enviably large hair AND A MARSUPIAL ON YOUR CHEST.

Generic angst, sturm und drang. Occasional fits of squalor related weeping. Inconvenient outbreaks of inarticulacy and phone phobia. Confusion. The usual, boooring.


Petits bonheurs

Janelle Monae was pretty magnificent last night. They released black and white balloons during Tightrope, which was a great moment in an otherwise crapola weekend.

Daim Milka eggs:

This pisspoor photograph is included as evidence, because the internet denies their existence. I promise you they are real, and I have eaten them. All of them, both bags. I had to fight Lashes for the last few, but he's still smaller than me, so it was fine.

We discovered them
on a Friday night trip to Carrefour (weekend high points: trip to Carrefour and watching Panique au Village twice, it was not what anyone could describe as a vintage weekend.) and they are filthy, filthy good. If they are widely available I will be 30 stone by Easter. I was hoping that they would only be available in far flung stores, but the discovery of an online wholesaler of Easter confectionery, including these
crunchy
ersatz caramel beauties, heralds dangerous developments for my jawline and other fleshy parts.

Baby tapir. I am obsessed. I have met a baby tapir once, from a distance, but I am frustrated by these animal-centric zoological times that mean I am not allowed to cuddle one, maybe take it home for an hour or so to play with. Maybe make it wear a bonnet. I am not serious, obviously, animal welfare is primordial, and all that, but DAMN. Look at its little hooves. I have become slightly obsessed with the injustice of not being allowed to take an exotic animal home with me, since stumbling across an archive of old photographs of Twycross zoo, here. In many of the pictures large, wild animals appear to be in people's front parlours. I know it is not a good thing, but god, it looks so fun to have a seven month old Indian elephant in your house. Momentary wistfulness.

Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood
(I have not used my stupid Amazon link to this, because I cannot be arsed, frankly, which is one of the many reasons I will have a pauper's grave. Or possibly just be incinerated without ceremony by the staff at the cruel, neglectful nursing home in Flanders where I will be placed by the authorities). It was pressed upon me
by B's lovely fiancé and I am so glad he did, it is tiny and brilliant. I particularly like this description "that special miscellaneous Anglo-Irish rubble of unopoened and unpayable bills, tennis rackets with broken strings, stone hot-water bottles without stoppers, stuffed pheasants in cracked glass cases, old yellowing copies of horse magazines, torn pages of the London Times".

I am getting my brows done tomorrow. Ok, that involves needles, but it also involves my forehead looking less browny orange and Spocklike and it involves Sophie who is a goddess and makes me homesick for North Yorkshire, even though we both fled it approximately a million years ago.

Fingers read his first full sentence this weekend. It was, (and I paraphrase, the original was in French of course, he will no more communicate in English than he will, well, find the bin):

"The DS cartridge has been removed"

I am so proud, ahem.

Any minor whines or tiny triumphs to share with me tonight?

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Day 249


"Do not", someone said plaintively on the last post "go away for so long again in February, the month of Beelzebub". But of course, February being the month of Beelzebub I did and I am very sorry. You are less neglected than, say the house or the dog, if it's any consolation. The children are ok, because they can reach the cupboards and have opposable thumbs.

It's been a strange week, including for my beloved Belgium. When is it not a strange week for Belgium, one might ask with some justification, but this week was a corker. We beat Iraq's "no government" record, effortlessly gliding past 249 days of farcical constitutional paralysis, and celebrated with, uh, nothing really. Some people in Ghent took their clothes off and there was a low key Frite Revolution in Brussels. The postal services and my cherished Brussels public transport operatives at the STIB went on strike in a helpful, totally unrelated fashion, just in case anyone had a residual impression that public services might be functional. The transport strike was particularly precious, since it was a walk out in response to an act of aggression against a metro driver. So far, so laudable. Sadly, it later transpired that the metro driver in question had thrown the first punch, and the whole incident had degenerated into a twenty minute brawl. I find myself wondering how he feels about the whole thing: righteously indignant, or a tiny bit sheepish?

Back on the domestic front, Fingers has been sneaking into my bed at six every morning to intone gravely in my ear how many days it is until his birthday (eleven). I think if you asked him how many days it is until his 23rd birthday he could probably tell you at this point, so fixated is he upon it. They are a strange combination of things, these wake up calls. Firstly, it is rather nice on an animal level, because he is irresistible, particularly when he is being so serious, and he will hold my creased, puffy face in his small cool hands as he tells me the present state of his party guest list, and that is very pleasing. But of course, it is 6am, and I have been gnawing a bald patch in my fur (thank you Antonia) until the early hours worrying about laughably tiny things in the grand scheme of things and 6am - even without the gnawing and worrying - is Too Bloody Early. Then on top of that there is the guilt that falls on me like a cartoon grand piano at 6:03 each morning because I have not done a damn thing about this mythic party, even though he seems to have drawn up a table plan, menu and order of ceremonies in triplicate in his mysterious small head.

So it came to pass that I finally knuckled down this evening and signed over 3 years income to "Stardust Park" for 3 hours running around a poorly lit hangar staffed by dead eyed teenagers on day release from Forest Prison, 1 fun sized packet of Haribo per guest included. He initially took the news with calm acceptance of one who knows it is only his due, but when it got to the bit where I printed off the invitations and he got to stick stickers on the envelopes he got quite giddily thrilled, so I felt I had done a good thing and we can move on to the ceremonial studying of the Women's Weekly Birthday Cake Book.

Apart from this rudimentary act of parenting, my high point of the week was probably doing this gentleman's make up.




You may be thinking that I am not a make up artist, I certainly know I'm not a make up artist, my face testifies that I am not a make up artist. Even so, Baloji had been told that I was going to do his make up. So I did. Well, I patted around his face ineffectually with a sponge, trying to look professional. Occasionally someone would say "how's the make up?" and I would purse my lips and frown and say "I think it's holding up", without actually having a clue. It didn't matter much thankfully, because he'd look amazing even if you dressed him up as Bart de Wever. I've already bored everyone I know rigid with my borderline creepy admiration for him but I'm sorry, he's fucking brilliant (nothing like Jessie J, that was weird) and he's coming to the UK in July so you can expect me to harangue you further about going to see him if you live there.


The standards, they are a-slippin'

A series of things I have got wrong in my last two posts:

- apparently lorries don't weigh 500 tonnes. Eh. How much is a tonne anyway?

- Mistakenly described chlamydia as " a molecule" and not a bacterium. My father would be so proud (though, as my friend R wisely observed "I'm sure he'd be proud you were talking about chlamydia online regardless").

- "Jurk" is a dress, not a skirt.

- I used the word "snoek" (meaning pike) instead of "snoet" (meaning face). Which I sort of like.

Please continue to be vigilant with my factual, spelling and grammatical errors, I approve. I will be over here drooling gently and bringing shame upon the sciencier members of my family.

No, sciencier is not a word. Shut up now.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Prawns, Cava, disco unicorns

14 February, 10pm. The children are sleeping, the dog is sulking in a corner. I have made myself a sub-standard (though homemade, actually the two facts are not unrelated) pizza, and I am half watching French Masterchef, each episode of which appears to last longer than Der Ring des Nibelungen performed largo. The other half of my psyche is bathing in a gentle wash of panic, as usual. Around me, all is squalor and chaos, as it should be, I think the sofa I am sitting on is 43% crisps, 30% biscuit crumbs, 26% fox shit, 1% lost keys. It is ULTRA ROMANTIC. I am also giving thanks. Let us take a moment, on Valentine's Day, to remember Valentine's days past, and give thanks for never having to live through them again. 2010, I am looking at you. I cannot do much more than look at you with pursed lips on this, a family friendly weblog, but consider yourself stared at disapprovingly, with narrowed eyes and a cat's arse mouth. Do not think I have forgotten your laughably terrible antics. See also: every Valentine's day from the age of 10 to 19 (years of nothing occasionally leavened by some horrifying card based declaration: best friend's younger brother, Stuart the French horn player with the terrible acne).

Small mercies, my friends. Other small mercies:

- I had an excellent trolley in Colruyt today. It was the veritable Rolls Royce of Colruyt trolleys, fully mobile even if you dared to look to either side at the produce, in flagrant contravention of Colruyt trolley handling rules. It still had the turning circle of a 500 tonne articulated lorry, but apart from that it was wonderful.

- Actually, the fact I went to Colruyt is a mercy in itself. It will take, oooh, at least four days for the locust-like infants to work their way through the biscuit mountain and I have a five kilo bag of prawns and three bottles of exceptionally cheap Cava. What more could any woman want? Hang on, it's the second time I've said that today, I am going to check what the first time was about.

...

Oh yes, it was me talking to M (are you reading M's Singapore Noodle Tumblr? You really should) about B, and it went:

"he sends me rainbow unicorns set to gay disco, baby animals and reams of profanity. What more could any woman want?"

What, indeed. Prawns, cava, profanity, baby animals, disco unicorns. Have I missed anything?


- You were all very kind about my hair. You ARE very kind. Wrong, but kind. I do hate it fractionally less today, probably because I haven't walked past a mirror.

- I fixed my own fucking thermostat! Ok, not my own fucking thermostat (if I have one, it would take more than new batteries to fix it), the fucking house thermostat. AND reset the clock. This is a feat of dizzying competence. How empowering. For my next trick .. actually, nah. There is no next trick.

- I watched this three times. It makes me feel strange. I can't express it really. I hate Queen, and I hate everything military (Quaker school), and yet, and yet. I'm confused about every aspect of it. Aren't some of them rather attractive? Why does Belgium need such a large boat? Where does it live? Why is Alf from Home & Away in it? I think I need to write to a problem page about my Confusing Feelings, I need therapy, I need to investigate further. That's not really a mercy is it? But it will have to do.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Fornicating slipper limpet



Oh dear, this has been my worst ever episode of blogging laxness. I am hopeful that this means I will have something to say other than "I have been sitting at the kitchen table feeling anxious", but let's wait and see shall we. Don't get your hopes up. I've definitely mainly been sitting at the kitchen table feeling anxious. The kind of anxious that doesn't stop you eating monstrous quantities of cheap chocolate.


Hairnnui

So. New hair. I am not very happy with the new hair. It is not John's fault. I experienced a rush of blood to the head, egged on, I should say, by the brain twin, and decided we should try Something New. I am a fool. It was lovely to see him though, and we had lots of fun trying to follow the precise instructions from the notorious wig video. It had been, we worked out, exactly a year to the day since I last saw him, and we had a jolly time swapping life catastrophe stories as is our wont (he won this year, sadly for him).

Look, here I am looking underwhelmed and sulky in a toilet cubicle (this is the best shot, I am too vain to show you the true horror. Mainly it looks FAR FAR WORSE. No amount of illegal zhuzhing can help).





I took this pictures whilst in the process of eating 15 times my bodyweight in Indian food to make myself feel better. I also invested in some Elemis supersoak, because I knew I would be needing the oblivion that only Elemis brings. Come melt my bones, Elemis supersoak, and let me forget I look like the bad tempered, half-witted lovechild of Myra Hindley and Rod Stewart.

I do not cope well with the sensation of hair on my neck, as proved last year with a drunken kitchen scissors incident. I do not know if I can bear it. It is not making me happy at the moment, I feel ugly and vulnerable. Something will happen, and hopefully it will not involve kitchen scissors or nervous breakdowns. Crawling back for a trim in a few weeks, maybe, and living the life of a hermit in the meantime. Is there a language that has a word for "existential despair brought on by a poorly-judged haircut"? There should be.


Green Porno

It's ok, there is better news. I went to the AMAZING Sexual Nature exhibition at the Natural History Museum on my way back from the overambitious haircut, featuring Isabella Rossellini's Green Porno films. They really are extraordinary, I cannot recommend highly enough if you enjoy revered art house actresses in cardboard duck costumes saying things like "my complex vaginal structure repels forced copulation". Or orgiami penises. It cheered me right up. I might have a haircut like a Hoxton twat circa 2004, but at least I am not a male praying mantis. There is also a section at the end of the exhibition where people can just leave candid notes about their sexual or romantic experiences which is excellent - my pictures didn't come out well, sadly, the pic at the top of this post is the only legible one, but there were some corkers - and fascinating facts about the reproductive idiosyncracies of creatures like the "Fornicating slipper limpet". In the shop at the end you can buy a plush chlamydia molecule. Good stuff. I strongly suggest you go.


Swine flu free

I do not suggest you go to Hatfield, however, unless you are feeling psychically, emotionally invincible. Go, say, when you haven't just had a haircut that has reduced your self-esteem to rubble and you are in a feedback loop of anxiety. However, if you do go to Hatfield, Bar 12 looks nice and has that all important 'swine flu free' guarantee:




The other thing I liked about Hatfield was the way that on municipal signage, "disabled toilet" got equal billing with "Town centre". However Hatfield Asda did finally yield Caramel Aeros, advertised on every London Transport hoarding within 3 miles of St Pancras, and yet mysteriously unavailable. I just had one, they are rubbish. I had lunch at Hatfield Asda canteen, actually, because I live a life of endless, dizzying glamour.


Plastic Beddingtrand

Back in Belgium - which I'm not, but I very nearly am, I am lurking in a corner of the Eurostar terminal, repelling everyone with my catastro-mullet and glum expression - I may finally fulfil my dearly held wish to go to the Plasticarium. The Plasticarium is some plastic stuff in a room in downtown Brussels, but it is so hard to access, so profoundy odd, that it has attained supernatural status for me as a destination. You need to assemble a group of ten people and make small offerings to the management and all sorts and I have finally found someone willing, eager, indeed, to faciliate my lunatic idée fixe. If anyone wishes to come along, just mail me. There is room for everyone! We can inhale plastic fumes and fall over!


Lekkere bips

The best, the absolute best bit of the last week was definitely watching "Trinny & Susannah: Missie Vlanderen", which is Trinny and Susannah, presumably a little down on their fiscal luck still, "doing" Belgium. They are subtitled. They are roaming a suburban shopping centre in Flanders like a pair of posh vultures. It is amazing, particularly because the local populace take no prisoners and it is quite possible that someone might just punch Susannah before the end of the series. I wish I understood more Dutch so I could work out what the recalcitrant women being forced into V-necks and belted floaty skirts are saying, maybe "What the fuck? Bootleg trousers? Do they think it's nineteen ninety fucking five???" I have however learned the following phrases (if I copied them down right, I was in ecstasy):

Monoboezem - self-explanatory, non?

Lekkere bips - nice arse

Boom knuffelen - tree hugging

Ein prachtig snoek - a pretty face

Trek de jurk uit - take the skirt off

I think I should try some of them out, say, on the tram. I can't see how anything could go wrong with that.

I can think of at least TWO whole other things I want to tell you this week, possibly even three if I get back into Belgian politics, AND I'm supposed to be going to a corrective knicker conference on Tuesday. Stick with me, it's going to be fantastic*.



*Probably a lie.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Excuses, excuses.

I got sucked into a black hole of childcare and general incompetence in the second half of last week. I don't even know why I didn't get around to writing anything. I do know the whole week came to a head today with a game of battleships so protracted I think I aged fifteen years in the course of it. I didn't think anything could be worse than Monopoly, but it turns out that battleships with:

1 incredibly easily distracted and slapdash child;
1 incredibly precise and minutely careful - not to mention easily angered - child. Who, it later transpires, is crucially still a little hazy on the distinction between 'G' and 'J';
1 very tired, numerically inept adult who nevertheless has a stubborn belief that things should Be Done Right

is in fact worse than Monopoly. Truefact. It is probably no coincidence that the day ended with someone getting stabbed with a giant, sharpened wooden stick in the zizi and the whole household being put unceremoniously to bed. Well, not me, sadly. I wish someone could put me unceremoniously to bed, but instead I am arsing around making stupid amendments to documents, picking up marbles (which are dotted around the house in extraordinary numbers, considering I have never, but never, seen the boys make any attempt play with them) and trying to play Adele songs on the piano holding the soft pedal down so as not to anger the neigbours, whilst intermittently watching Isabella Rosselini in red spandex talking about bed bug penises (amazing, essential viewing, thank you Mr Houser).

What DID I do,exactly? Perhaps better not to dwell, I mean, I know I was working, but god knows what on. I check my phone for clues, but all I could find were these photos, which actually seem like an extraordinarily accurate representation of the inside of my head.



This is Brussels's very own LOLcat. I spotted him looking mournfully out of the window on a grey day last week.

I discovered this tableaux vivant on the sideboard one morning last week. It is still undisturbed. Perfectly charming.


We spent a long time in the hippo house at Antwerp zoo on Saturday. Mainly because it was raining. The hippos were exceptionally noisy, in an impressive, but ultimately repetitive sort of way. They were - and this is a technical term - fucking huge.


I do not think this requires commentary.



This is the baby hippo, Lambrini (I swear. It sounds like one of Jordan's children). The baby hippo has PINK FEET. We saw them for about a minute, when baby hippo stood on mama hippo in a fit of youthful hippopotamus high jinks and kicked her hard with its adorable pink hooves. I felt a pang for mama hippo, I'll admit it.


I love this garden, which is very near me. Dilapidated wooden donkeys, check. Belgian flag, flying low, check. Rockery, check.

I am not even going to pretend for a second this week will be better: it won't. I mean, look, it's midnight already and I still want to watch Isabella being a mackerel. What have you been up to, mes petits choux?

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Heer Striss

Today is Exciting Multimedia Day. There were other things I should have been doing, but I collected a parcel from the Post Office and became so captivated by its contents I just had to share. I apologise for: sound quality. Image quality. All the rest. I particularly wish I could bear to have my teeth whitened again but it was medievally painful so the yellow fangs must remain.

Incidentally the wigs these lovely people produce are pure genius. I owe them that, before I start mocking their educational wig video.







After that it just became a removable hair free for all.