I have cried at the TV. I have cried at the planting of a memorial potted palm for a woman I had never met in the gulag schoolyard (the intended oak tree did not arrive in time, but the resultant palm-based farce didn't overwhelm the pathos). I have cried at the Elderly Animals. I have cried at the death of Dory Previn to an overwhelming extent, walking the dog through the drizzly shit-strewn streets of grey Uccle with tears streaming down my face, again and again. Like a lunatic.
But oh, Dory Previn. Mythical Kings and Iguanas was my favourite of my mum's albums when I was little (probably because of the mention of iguanas). I didn't understand 90% of the lyrics but I liked the word pictures she made, and her voice, and Mary C Brown, and, well, everything, somehow. It's one of the few records I am inadvertently word perfect on decades later - that, a selection of my dad's Frank Sinatras. I don't know, there's something bizarrely moving about the music your parents listened to when you were little, those long-gone moments when you were all other people, but not. There is for me, anyway.
Dory Previn for me is going back to the time when I would have been about five, or six or seven; when our sitting room was still on the first floor. On Saturday evenings mum would wash my hair in the kitchen sink (often to the accompaniment of Dory Previn), me lying along the draining board, then I would have cold chicken from Marks & Spencer for tea, and go upstairs to watch The Muppets, then Doctor Who sitting on the scratchy chaise longue in my nightie. It was the time when it was just the two of us living together and I suppose when you really can't go back to time and place, when there's no one to talk about it with, you look at those periods with a particular reverence, a particular consciousness of what you've lost. I remember it as being such a sure, happy time but when I think of it, my mum was on her own with me and not much money and her life was in flux and chaos. How did she do it? I don't think I've managed to give my children that same insouciant confidence, that certainty of everything being fundamentally ok, in my chaotic and sad times. Anyway, it's been odd. It evoked my mum in a very particular time and place and made me miss her very concretely, somehow. Look, here we are. I definitely chose that outfit myself. That is not York, if you were wondering.
And here we are twenty years later. Look at her arm on my shoulder. I have that black vest she's wearing now, I wore it earlier this week. I have the baby still too. He's a tiny bit larger now.
And here is lovely Dory singing Mary C. Brown. This one didn't make me cry, incidentally.
All that to explain that I really didn't want to do sad, and sad is all I have. I don't know. What could I tell you about? There has been the usual quotient of farce, new shoes, a small war with a town in the Ardennes (don't ask, they're winning) and an endless stream of domestic tedium. We have learnt two poems (one about spring, one about the water cycle, both execrable), and how to say "plumber" in Dutch and the school heating has broken, leading to logistical chaos. Half term is upon us now, thanks to the extra bonus day of heating related holiday tomorrow, and I am very cross about it. The fuses keep blowing, the loo is blocked, I suspect by a balloon, or some Lego, the dog is coated in a fine layer of park mud (50% shit by volume, I fear) and thoroughly enervated by the children playing Raving Rabbits. Satan - someone expressed concern about Satan - is fine. He survived the arctic temperatures with great rodenty indifference and is treating the rain with the same "Satan don't give a shit" attitude he treats everything. I feel a deep gratitude to Satan. He shows up twice a day, snatches comestibles out of your hand, shits copiously everywhere and vanishes until he gets hungry again. This is everything I need from a pet really. Both boys are currently agitating for rats, which I consider a slight improvement on the previous bids for reptiles.
Most of my entertainment this week has come from my email folder, which has offered me, for instance, today, this excellent opportunity: "help us carry a giant fox sculpture through the streets of Antwerp!". Well. Your offer obviously appears very attractive, but I really need to know a little more. HOW giant is this fox? Is it really, really gargantuan? Will I be able to sit on it? Be carried through the streets of Antwerp on its back? Because on the picture you attach, the man appears to be carrying a really very modestly sized fox. Fox sized, I would be tempted to say. And when you say "help us", can you actually promise me I will get a turn of the actual carrying? I do, I must say, like the programme of events which states, tersely, and without further explanation:
You interest me, TELL ME MORE.
My other email favourite is the "Grand Prêtre Vadou avec action dans l'Immediat" who has offered to make a pact with the devil on my behalf in order to guarantee my happiness. Even the email title was winning: VOICI LA SOLUTION POUR TOUS VOS PROBLEMES SPIRITUELS (HERE IS THE ANSWER TO ALL YOUR SPIRITUAL PROBLEMS). Really? Even insistent vague malaise at lack of concrete achievements? Because I could get behind that. I like that kind of certainty in an internet scammer and really, who in this day and age is willing to commit to the level of customer service that a pact with Satan involves? A very tempting offer and no mistake. Also, voodoo high priests are nothing if not practical because this one has attached a price list. It is full of things I want to put on my Amazon wish list, like hypnotic talismans, special perfumes to make your wife come back and forgive you, cures for syphilis and gonorrhea and a miraculous handkerchief that ensures you are never short of money (interestingly, this comes in two strengths: "simple puissance" and "haute puissance". I'll take one of each!). All yours for several thousands of dollars in a currency I am unable to identify with certainty. His website is down, apparently, but email orders are welcomed. Can you resist? I am not at all sure I can. I wonder how he is with teeth?
There is also an email in my inbox currently entitled "Uniform for Pygmy Lizard Army", but I feel that is a story for another day.
What would YOU like a voodoo priest to bring you? Or what did your parents listen to and how does it make you feel now?