Friday, 24 February 2012


This is just some unrelated oddments, to clear my conscience at my ongoing failure to update more regularly.

This is first born son's plateau aperitif, wholly designed and executed by him: surely a decently mixed martini cannot be too far away now? That drink is his own creation: lemon juice, water, sugar and red food colouring, much of which is now currently on the floor, the work surfaces and various parts of the dog, which is the price you pay for sub-contracting half-term childcare to the forces of Science (€100, entirely tax deductible, in a basement, they seem to be mainly playing wink murder). Out of shot there is also a cup filled with eggshells and vinegar, but I don't know what that's for and thought it politic not to ask. My children's ideal evening currently involves being in their pyjamas by 5pm and sitting in front of the television with a large tray of snacks. Genetics, eh.

Both children were required to dress up today for Mandatory Holiday Fun. Neither was initially enthused at the prospect, however Lashes remembered the dressing up shop in town with the plastic vomit and scorpion hats and other child-pleasing delights, so we went down there last night. It was packed with jolly revelers buying ... well. Polyester crap, mainly. They do have a really excellent selection of facial hair though: eyebrows, gigantic mutton chop whiskers, beards of all varieties (no photos, because an old man lurches over to mutter at you if you try. While I was in there, a woman asked him about cowboy hats. "Upstairs" he said. "But, do they have several styles, or just one?" she persisted, slightly pointlessly. "I don't know" he said. "I never go upstairs. Ever". End of conversation).

I found the children's 'outfit' choices quite puzzling, but they were at least relatively cheap. Lashes: "Freddie", Fingers: "un Italien".

(Not pictured: blood capsules and a selection of moustaches)

Also, who taught that child jazz hands?

"No one will guess my disguise", exulted Fingers this morning as I dropped him off. No, indeed.

Finally, finally! I have had a minor Amazon binge born of desperation and have things to read. I am including no Amazon links, because those bastards never paid me for months of free advertising, so I don't see why I should. I have already finished the new Sophie Hannah (marvellously creepy and compelling as ever), I am most of the way through Craig Taylor's Londoners which is lovely and gentle and sort of reminiscent of Studs Terkel, but with the aded bonus of making me homesick. I have Jeanette Winterson's memoir by the bed, which I am also very much looking forward to reading. I used to live directly opposite the tiny Spitalfields grocer Jeanette Winterson owns. It was managed by a lovely American man called Harvey who sold Pierre Marcolini chocolates and the most expensive single artichokes in the world and cups of coffee that took him ten minutes to brew with single minded food-autist love. Once a month or so, a Japanese chef would come in and cook dinner, which was amazing, if somewhat minimal nourishment-wise. Anyway. I never saw Jeanette there, so this anecdote is going precisely nowhere.

I have also got a couple of more 'research' reads, well, sort of: Graham Robb's Parisians, and Zarafa by Michael Allin, which is about the first giraffe in France. An animated film of this story has just come out, which I did not know until after I ordered the book, but I can see why: it's a magical sort of tale. Zarafa WALKED from Marseille to Paris in 1826, accompanied by 4 Egyptian handlers, 2 antelopes, some cows, and zoologist Etienne Geoffroy de Saint-Hilaire, who kept a sort of diary of the trip. Imagine living along the route she walked and suddenly seeing a giraffe. It must have been mind-blowing. It is full of sweet bits from accounts of the journey, like this from Lyons:

"Today the giraffe toured a part of the city, accompanied by her keepers, a numerous picket of police and a great crowd of the curious. The courteous animal did not fail to visit the Prefect, who accorded her the welcome due to a beautiful stranger. In order to protect her from the cold temperature she was dressed in a mantle of waxed taffeta".

I also like this:

"One can say that the Giraffe has nothing elegant or graceful in the detail of her forms; her short body, her high and close-together legs, the excessive length of her neck, the declivity of her back, her badly-rounded rump and her long and bare tail, all these things contrast in a shocking manner; she seems badly built, unbalanced on her feet, and yet one is seized by astonishment at the sight of her, and one finds her beautiful without being able to say why".

(There's a bit in the Tiger's Wife which reminds me of this, where the narrator's grandfather gets her out of bed and forces her to come and look at an elephant walking along a street. I liked the Tiger's Wife a great deal).

Any other business:

1. Wednesday was characterised by a long and tedious fight with my mobile telephony provider, necessitating 3 trips to The Mobile Phone Shop of Despair, and an hour on the phone on hold to the insurers, with the end result that I am many hundreds of Euros poorer, no longer in possession of a shit, duplicitous insurance policy and possibly suffering from catastrophic hypertension. I do, however, have a functioning telephone which is a novelty.

2. I have manned up and booked a dentist's appointment after (ssssh) four years, despite my galloping dental phobia. Since I have had to accompany both my children to the dentist in the last fortnight, it seemed like the least I could do. Lashes is currently in the starting blocks for long and fiscally painful orthodontic treatment and I am girding my loins for much wailing, gnashing of teeth and rending of garments, since (i) it is no fun (ii) Lashes could not be described as my most stoic child by any stretch of the imagination; and (iii) Even if he wasn't, a fixed metal plate on his palate is unlikely to be enjoyable for a thumbsucker. Honestly, we should campaign for the aesthetic recognition of British Teeth. Grey and wonky: it's the way forward. If the worst comes to the worst, we can all just live on milkshakes, yes?

3. Tested this place for a job yesterday and it is bloody lovely. Go there, Brussels people.

I took lots of pictures to celebrate the fact I FINALLY had a working telephone, mainly of the plates, which excited a vein of crockery lust in me. (You can CHOOSE your plate off the shelf. Joyful).

4. I am going to London next week - at last! One of my key tasks is to collect a box of 24 Peanut Butter Chunky KitKats that a kind lady is keeping for me (you have been looking without success for the elusive PBCKK? That is why. I have a team of, erm, one highly trained operative buying and stockpiling them for my personal 'use'). The others mainly involve eating and drinking with my lovely friends and going to see the Hockney exhibition, so it will be a trip of limited hardship, I think. However, it is my first trip since mid-December and after that length of absence I usually walk the streets slowly and obstructively in a beatific daze, tipping my hat to passers-by and occasionally breaking into short freestyle tap dance sequences incorporating lampposts and police officers. I try to strike up conversations in Boots, smile at strangers and stand in the middle of the street and marvel at the ready availability of Indian food and cheap chocolate. Thus, it is highly likely I will get stabbed. If you don't hear from me again, you know why.


Pat (in Belgium) said...

Check with your health insurance to see if you qualify for a subsidy on Lashes' braces. We were given a large chunk of money (don't remember exact amount; it was more than a decade ago & I can't even remember last Tuesday!) when daughter needed serious orthodontal work. (It was at least a third of the total, maybe even a bit more...)
(None of us is Belgian & she still qualified. No problems.)

frau antje said...

I get so out of touch with the English language when I'm not in Europe. So much so that coming back is like being on drugs, but that's probably only because I've been living on drugs for the past week, and they're wearing, getting old. Or, much more likely, you're just that good. Like drugs. That's pretty damn good in my book.

P.S. That's exactly what I did in Lyons!

Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes said...

If bad theeth are proof of British heritage then my husband must be partly british. This explain a lot...

woollythinker said...

I have indeed been hunting unsuccessfully for the peanut butter marvel. I might have known. *narrows eyes, looks baleful*

Johnners said...

I had a long conversation (with someone I don't know) in Marks & Spencer's food hall today. There must be something in the air. On the other hand it was almost exclusively about profiteroles, so perhaps I just attract that type of person. I loved this post, it was a lovely start to the weekend. (Apart from the dentist bit, sorry, but eurgh.) I hope you enjoy the Hockney - I can't go and am very envious.

jonathan said...

You can't go wrong with freestyle tapdances involving lamposts and Police Officers, in fact the coalition government, in a surprise post-Christmas gambit seen as a sop to the reformist wing of the Liberal Democrats, have made them compulsory. Also, as part of the Big Society agenda, Display of Unsociability in A High Street Chemist Store has been upgraded to an offence punishable by five years of imprisonment at Her Majesty's Pleasure. So just to be on the safe side you might want to essay a quick Charleston in the deodorant aisle with a likely-looking byestander of your choice, I believe that's the general form.

MsCaroline said...

Your giraffe story reminds me of when we lived in Tempe, Arizona (just outside of Phoenix). We used to ride our bikes in Papago Park, which backed up to the Phoenix Zoo. The Zoo provided a natural habitat setting for its animals so they could do a little more roaming - which was delightful for the animals but could be frustrating for the zoogoers, since the habitats were large and by the time you hiked to where you thought the animal was, it had often decided to roam to a completely different part of the habitat. This is probably why the zoo provided a high observation deck and a telescope - just to give you better odds of seeing the giraffe. Anyway, the first time we cycled at Papago, we were stunned to come up the rise of the hill and see the giraffe, which appeared to be roaming freely through the park (he was in his fenced habitat, we just couldn't see the fence due to the mountains in the park.)The same thing happened with the mountain goats, who spent all of their time on top of one of the mesas in the zoo overlooking the park and (from what we could tell) had no idea that they were living in captivity.

Anonymous said...

Love the slightly pedantic, borderline OCD neatly arranged platter, reminds me of my middle son's obsession with neatness!

Love the plates, I would be tempted to swipe a couple on each visit, as for the Kitkat chunky peanut butter - I cannot find any, anywhere. Stopped off at Tesco petrol station (the only place on earth where they had them) and asked - they had one sad looking one left on the counter (I grabbed it!) It was the last time I saw one and cannot for the love of me find a supplier - I may try Ebay!

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