Sunday, 29 April 2012

Fancy Fair

This probably makes no sense. I am writing it against the background of 'Real Steel', that film you probably haven't seen if you have a shred of sense, where Hugh Jackman and his estranged son bond over robot boxing. It is LOUD. Loud and deeply, deeply idiotic. The boys are enthralled.

'Chop the head' advises Fingers, pointing a long, popcorn-sticky digit at the left of the screen.

'Danse!' shouts Lashes, who does kickboxing on Wednesdays and should probably know more about this kind of thing. Though every time I go to collect him, he seems to be making sweeping, overblown ninja poses at himself in the mirror rather than actually fighting. I'm fine with that, obviously.

The dog has fallen asleep with his head on a Nintendo DS, because my sister is staying and is much more conscientious about long walks than I am.

So. The Fancy Fair was surprisingly low key. No mechanical rodeo, no headmaster fancy dress, no infant bikinis made from CDs and I only witnessed one minor punch up. The rain held off, most of the time. I spent €35, mainly on sweets on sticks, plastic crap that has already broken and throwing balls at photos of the headmaster.

The scenes of disco dancing farce were indescribable, as ever. I thought this lot were particularly unlucky in their outfits, petals drooping, leggings at half mast.

There were three Claude François numbers, including Alexandra, Alexandrie and nothing that was released after circa 1989.


Every time, I go into the sweaty, dusty, school hall dragging my heels, crabby and faintly resentful. And every time I roll my eyes at the CFO and bitch about the heavy-handed organisation (three enormous men in shades and silky black bomber jackets with lapel walkie-talkies letting people into the gym ten at a time? THIS IS A PRIMARY SCHOOL, PEOPLE, not the sodding Ministry of Sound). Then it starts and for a few minutes I giggle at the choice of music and the halting, shuffling cheesy dance steps and the incredible height disparity between the tallest and smallest in each class, and how there are always one or two who just stand at the back and sway slightly. But every time within about five minutes, (not even necessarily even when it's my children on stage, shuffle-step-clapping in deep, unsmiling concentration), I'm taken by surprise when my throat suddenly closes up and tears start pricking my eyes. And a couple of minutes later I am crying unrestrainedly and I have to pretend to be looking for something in my handbag while I wipe my eyes on an old scrap of tissue.

Why? I'm not really sure. Because the children are lovely, I suppose. They're lovely when they're serious and apprehensive and concentrating, when they're mouthing the words to songs that are thirty years older than they are, dressed up as sunflowers or mermaids or cowboys. When they have one wide, anxious eye on the teacher down the front, doggedly doing the actions along with them and the other scanning the rows for their parents, glued to their camcorders, mouthing the words too, nodding in encouragement. Then at the end, when they swell visibly with pride at getting through to the end without major mishap. This year I cried a little bit more at how big they all our now, these kids I've known since they were tiny, watching them every year sitting on these ridiculously small, uncomfortable chairs, how they've got all long-limbed and beautiful with their big, teased, gelled hair. Pah.

It gets me every time, dammit. Then I blow my nose a final time on my disintegrating tissue scrap, feel a bit sheepish at my own mawkishness and go and buy a warm beaker of exorbitantly priced wine out of a box.

(and here, for Curlywurlyfi, a tiny clip to prove that they really, really did do Cloclo)

Friday, 27 April 2012

Staring fixedly at walls since 1974

What fresh hell, Friday?

Let's start positive. I like this very much, which I plucked from the mouth of some kind of deity, guarded by a portrait of Princess Diana, yesterday at a presentation thingy.

I know that sounds like some kind of fucked-up dream sequence, but I promise it actually happened, look and more pictures here.  I loved it. I could have stood in front of it for hours (actually, staring at the table decoration would have been an improvement on standing in the middle of the room looking like a tool and not knowing what to say to anyone, which is what I actually did. GOD. I am thirty seven. Am I never going to be able to do small talk with strangers? Never? There was a golden period of about 18 months when I could do 'conversation' in 2005 because I was on double doses of anti-depressants, but the superpower left me as soon as I reduced the dosage. I will be in the corner of my nursing home fifty years hence still pretending to find a section of wall fascinating. What a desolate prospect).  The nobbly thing is a sort of multi-faceted skull. Really. The skull seems to have three faces. It fills me with happiness.

Also, it was free stuff. Free stuff is never, never not amazing, is it? The person who is tired of free stuff is tired of life, as I believe Dr Johnson said in exchange for a complimentary periwig. I also got a pair of very small maroon socks, and a cube that may or may not be soap this week, and this evening, a miniature tube of paprika Pringles. It has been a VINTAGE week for free stuff. 


..was also part of the display and I confess I was terribly tempted to put it in my pocket. I didn't, but I will be telling my children that a horse ashtray and beaded crucifix would be perfect Mother's Day gifts, and leaving them to get on with it.

Apart from that, I have taken delivery of the Rat Pleasuredome, which appears to be called 'Extra Large Ferret' (or rather XL Furet). It seems worryingly enormous. Perhaps the idea is that I move into it, and the rats takes over the rest of the house? I can deal with that, as long as the rats are also in charge of dog-walking, picking up discarded pants, cooking ninety five variants on mince and negotiations with HSBC. 

Pre-rat tidying is going well, as you can see: 

To the bottom left of that picture you may be able to make out Lashes' main contribution to the whole rat preparation operation which is 'A rat Lego labyrinth'. It would have to be a bloody thin rat, when I have been promised - and, indeed, paid to house - a fat, jolly rabelaisian rodent. 

In Things I Am Sick Of today:

- French television election coverage. I literally cannot bear another moment, it is making my brain bleed, Sarko trying to emote with his tiny fists clenched, the gentle shimmy of Hollande's neck wattle as he gets vehement, the fact that one in five French people voted for rabid, frothing harpy Marine Le Pen. There is another week left. A week! Laurence Ferrari, the blank-visaged blonde 'speakerine' on TF1 haunts my dreams. I am reading Montesquieu instead and learning classical arabic*.

(*Watching Breaking Bad and listlessly refreshing Twitter)

- My neighbours with their current alternating schedule of attic based R 'n' B and screaming at each other. I feel almost nostalgic for The Catholics. No, actually, I don't. 

- The Gulag's suggestion that I come to school tonight in order to buy one of my children's paintings which is in all aspects identical to the paintings of the other 424 pupils for €10. €10! This coming the night before the 'Fancy Fair' (terrible disco numbers as discussed in the previous entry, plastic beakers of warm beer in the bleak wind tunnel that is the school yard, widespread extortion for plastic tat) seems a little cruel. The painting in question is of a peacock, however, which may sway me.

- iPhoto which is being an attention seeking dickhead. Fuck off, iPhoto.  

- My continued anxiety levels, still set at XXXL Cortisol Alert, 3 Panic Attacks for the Price of 2!

- Birthday cake requests: 'Can you do, like, a bottom layer of intertwined snakes, then a middle layer of chocolate brownies, and then top it with strawberries and whipped cream?'

'Erm. When you say snakes....?'

'Snakes. Yes'.

'I'm not promising anything'.

I could continue the 'complaining' section of this post almost infinitely (itchy ears, weather, law, etc etc) so I am going to just cut myself off unceremoniously.

In 'Local Colour' corner today, I give you one of my favourite shops in Brussels:

As I sit in traffic sometimes outside this magnificent enterprise, snapping at my children and worrying about how I will manage the extremely tricky left turn into heavy traffic pursued by the steely wagon of certain death that is the 97 tram,  I wonder what it would be like to work there. What would you do exactly?

Then I wonder what kind of animal you might consider post-mortem 'facial moulding' for. I might have to start saving for Oscar and Satan already.

Please, please vote for me if you haven't already. There are only TWO AND A BIT DAYS LEFT. I really really really want to win. There is apparently a ceremony! Imagine! I could go and stand uneasily near the snacks on my own, then pretend to be fascinated by the table decorations, then hide in the loo for twenty minutes, then sneak out the back! It will be the social high point of my year, truth. Do not deprive me of this. Please? And thank you for your continued patience with this half-arsed pimping. 

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Milkshake dodo and other minor complaints

 Ok, back. Enough of this 'shops' and 'views' and 'sites of architectural interest' stuff. Let us get back to essentials: gentle, but sustained, grumbling. It is 8°C in Brussels, with a persistent, heavy drizzle and a bonus high wind. I have come back from the airport in the company of a taxi driver who did not know where 1. The Cinquantenaire 2. Montgomery roundabout; or 3. Avenue Brugmann were (non-Belges, these are incredibly well known bits of Brussels, like, say, not knowing where Marble Arch, or Holborn, are). I did at one point wonder whether I should text his registration number to a friend in case I died in horrible circumstances, but since he looked absolutely nothing like the photo on the taxi registration document pinned to the back of the damp, mildewed seat (he had a bonus monobrow and a look of total, if quite cheerful, lunacy), there didn't seem much point. Anyway, there is an extra intensity to still being alive this evening, for which I thank both him and the strong cross-winds on descent into Brussels in the metal death tube. Even though all I plan to do with my extra vivid sense of being alive is go to bed with a cup of tea and read some kind of gloomy detective novel.

Actually, the reason I really need that intensity is because the children have been rehearsing their dances for the imminent gulag fête this evening.  Dear lord. I don't know why they don't vary the medium a little. Why always dance? It's not like any of the several hundred children I have seen flump leadenly across the stage, one glassy, roaming eye looking for their parents, seem to enjoy it: they have that frozen expression of intense, stiff concentration that speaks of much backstage shouting. Couldn't they, I dunno, sing us a song? Do a (very short) play? I have seen enough 'rolly-rolly arm - then - clap' and 'walk around your partner with your hand on their shoulder then back the other way' 'moves' accompanying '70s and '80s disco standards in my six years in the audience to last me several lifetimes. This year we have Mika's Lollipop, and an obscure French version - impossible to locate on the internet, which gives me increased respect for the internet, actually - of the Hair standard, Let the Sunshine. I am, frankly, over it before it has even started. There are not enough complex paper tokens allowing me to buy small quantities of warm alcohol in plastic beakers at vastly inflated prices IN THE WORLD to make this enjoyable. Unless the headmaster dresses up. I like that. My passion for him has mainly dimmed, but on special occasions like this I take it out and polish it up again.

Anyway, I have sent them away. Lashes has been tasked with tidying his bedroom to accommodate The Imminent Rat (Rats, even. I have read widely on the sociable nature of the rat, and apparently we must get two fat, lazy, cuddly males with enormous testicles). Thus far he has: put a barbed wire temporary tattoo on one nipple and taken all the books out of the cupboard and placed them in a heap on the floor. I query the effectiveness of this approach. I went past half an hour ago: he is sitting contemplatively in the midst of all this chaos of his own making in a nest of dirty socks and bande dessinées, reading a dog-eared manga for the 900th time. Fingers sidled downstairs to tell on him a few minutes ago.

"As-tu vu sa chambre?"
(He has stopped speaking English in the two days I was away, dammit).

"Not recently, but I imagine it is still a scene of indescribable devastation?"


I had better go and do some light bellowing. But I have accustomed you to high quality visuals over the last few days and I do not wish to disappoint you, so here are my children tonight:

I don't know why this one is so yellow. Maybe the house has jaundice. I wouldn't put it past it.

You will note that the large three eyed plush blue cube Fingers ordered  from Lucy Moose for Christmas with precise measurements, a technical scale drawing and minutely detailed descriptive notes has been accessorised with a moustache. That is how Fingers rolls, presently, with prosthetic facial hair in all circumstances.

Imagine several large testicled rats festering in there. It doesn't bear thinking about. He is amused, however.

Then, randomly, to continue the 'shit travel blog' theme of previous days and because it cheers me beyond anything, here are a couple of picture from my very favourite Dodo Manège (merry-go-round of extinct and endangered creatures) in Paris. M and I went to try and see it, but it was shut, so we sneaked our cameras under the tarpaulin to try and take pictures of what was lurking. It was quite magical actually:

Though the Dodo is not amused:

And my favourite, on the wooden hut where you buy your ticket: the dodo, still apparently furious, but with a MILKSHAKE.

What did your Wednesday hold? Are you as angry as a dodo with, or even without, a milkshake? Please share with the group.

(Remember! Vote for me and we might win a pony*! Yes, I am still on about that, but there are only 4 days left, courage. More detailed instructions on how to vote at the top of the sidebar).

*'Pony' = absolutely nothing.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Palais Bulles

Day two of substandard travel blogging.

This is Pierre Cardin's Palais Bulles. It is completely AMAZING.

It was built by a Hungarian architect - no, actually, he doesn't like to be called an architect, he's a "habitologist" - Antti Lovag. Construction started in 1975 and didn't finish until 1989. Apparently Lovag planned to live in it himself, but Pierre Cardin made him an offer he couldn't refuse (afterwards, he went off and made himself another bubble house to live in). The bubbles are all connected with twisty, confusing trogolodyte corridors lined in pink tinged marble. It is profoundly bonkers and rather wonderful.

I want Pierre Cardin to adopt me now. I want to move into a bubble. Ideally one of the ones where you open the porthole and just jump out into the series of waterfall pools (maybe not today, it is COLD. The swimming costume is staying exactly where it is, in the bottom of my bag).

The interiors are just as batshit amazing as the exterior. I like this meeting room:

And this apartment:

Take that, Miserable Modernists! Up that wiggly bendy ladder thing is a special children's bubble:

The whole full of Pierre Cardin's furniture and other crazy ass stuff he made or collected and each bedroom (THEY ARE ALL INSANE) is decorated by a different artist (one of them is sperm themed).

And there's even a whole apartment underneath the swimming pool. Oh yes.

Sorry, I know you don't come here for actual useful information but I found it entirely mindblowing. Also, I have literally nothing whatsoever else to report, because I spent most of the day in my fancy bed, doing some light spreadsheet wrangling whilst listening to the wind whistle among the pine trees, and eating chocolate olives. You will get no complaint from me, it was very pleasant. Tomorrow I am going home, so I won't be able to subject you to any more poorly composed photographs of odd things,  at least not ones with bright sunshine.

I try my hand at aspirational travel blogging, with mediocre results

Here I am, blogging, even though I am semi-migrainous, two glasses of wine down and have been up and 'travelling' - missing trains, crying at self-check in, standing in wrong queues, headbanging strange men - since 6am. That's devotion for you (I put it down to my craven desire to win a Weekend Blog Award*, which has me dancing round in circles like an inept performing seal). The worst bit of the trip was when I caught sight of my accidentally fake tanned wrist in the cold light of day (I only tried to do my legs, but obviously forgot to wash afterwards) and gasped out loud at the horror of it. I have been hiding my extremities behind conveniently placed pieces of furniture ever since.

Hello! I am in Abroad with two very nice people I have never met before. I did not die in the metal tube of death. I nearly did not even catch the metal tube of death due to some Belgian rail mind games, ticket machine slapstick and then standing in the wrong passport queue for 20 minutes either. Double triumph! Now, am in .. I dunno. Halfway between Cannes and .. Antibes? Maybe? It was a long, twisty way and I had to stare at the horizon like a dog with my forehead pressed against the window to stop myself being sick.

But it's ok, because outside it looks like this:

Isn't that gorgeous? We're not in Uccle now, Toto. Well, it looked like that before it got dark and ominous. Now it is blowing a gale outside and there are big, angry waves bashing against, well, whatever there is down there. Some species of rock, I suppose. Ah, springtime. I am in the dark, lying on my elaborate moorish bed, surrounded by elaborate moorish decorative elements, still wearing my coat, because I cannot work out how to turn the air con off. At least there will be no call to wear a swimming costume, which is almost certainly for the best. I haven't looked closely at the results of my shitty midnight fake tan and I think if I, and everyone else, can keep it that way, we can count this trip as a success.

This afternoon, we went on a slightly eccentric roadtrip in a shiny black convertible Mini none of us know how to drive to Nice. We wandered round the tiny, windy streets of Vieux Nice, and I got to buy some of these from two women with really luxuriant moustaches:

I used to be obsessed with these pretend olives when I was little. It was around the same time that I spent a whole 6 week summer holiday claiming to be a horse and only answering to the name 'Lightning', and that other holiday I spent hanging from the top of a door frame like an over-sized bat. This doesn't really bode well for the faux-olives, does it?

Whereas nothing at all bodes well for these siamese marzipan dogs.

Who buys sweaty marzipan Siamese dogs, I wonder? And is it the same people who buy flayed looking sweaty marzipan pigs?

Note, particularly, the expression of 'top pig'.

These too, were interesting.

(Stick with me, things will get - marginally - better in a moment. Not much nightmarish marzipan still to go. Ok, just one).

Apart from the Nice Home for Deformed Marzipan, we went to the most amazing glove shop.

This was genuinely brilliant rather than nightmarish. Gird your loins for a lot of terrible pictures of gloves.

I wanted about 80 pairs, especially those amazing two-tone seamed ones, even though they made my fingers look like colourful sausages.

Which would you have chosen? It was IMPOSSIBLE. I have a lot of regrets. I would happily have taken 8 pairs home with me, even though it is nearly summer, though the howling gale outside might beg to differ.

The gloves were actually impressively cheap (from €35). Glove Me, it's called (5 Rue du Marché, 06300 Nice < LOOK, that is actual information, right there). Highly recommended.

All in all it has been a very successful day. I did not have to pretend to be studying a wall, or to hide, once. I got over-excited at dinnertime and did some over-sharing, but I do not think I mentioned capybaras. Tomorrow we are going to visit Pierre Cardin's bubble house. You can look forward to me taking some terrible fuzzy pictures and possibly falling over a couple of times. Tune in tomorrow! Exciting times!

 *(I have decided that contrary to my natural inclination I am going to cravenly continue asking you to vote for me for a few days. I hear great things of this 'asking for stuff' business and have never really tried it, so why not now? I apologise for the assault. I am following Peter's lead, because he won a competition and got to go and stuff sausages in Larzac for a week or something and he hustled loads. Ok, he also did brilliant, amazing stuff with meat, but passons).

Sunday, 22 April 2012


Samedi chez Waffle. Je constate les éléments suivants:

1. Je vous écris des toilettes où je me suis réfugiée pour échapper à 'Kid Detectives', une série australienne débile que j'oblige mes enfants à regarder pour qu'ils conservent les quelques mots d'anglais qu'ils sont encore capable de me sortir (à savoir: 'more' 'no' 'biscuit' 'loser'). Pas que leur émission préférée, 'Inezuma Eleven' en VF, serait mieux. C'est un manga crétin sur une équipe de foot (très fan de serre tête en éponge) qui sait voler à travers la galaxie, ou quelque-chose dans le genre. Ca m'inspire un sentiment d'agacement complètement démesuré.


"Ben, le foot c'est plus rigolo à la télé. Sans vrais joueurs."


2. J'ai calculé que le jean que je viens d'acheter (dans un magasin flambant neuf et super luxueux dont je tairais le nom) dans un état second, hypnotisée par une sculpture vidéo d'un espèce d'oeil violet déformé, par l'éclairage fortement déconseillé aux épileptiques et par les bottines Alaia à €1200 équivaut à deux jours de recherches juridiques extrêmement ennuyeuses. Il n'est même pas tissé en poils de licorne, ce jean, et il a inspiré l'échange suivante:

"Mouais... Ca te fait les fesses un peu ... plates, non?"

"Mes fesses sont toujours plates"

"Encore plus plates alors."

"Tant pis, je l'achète, sinon je vais finir par acheter une robe à motif chatons Victoria Beckham à €3000, je sens que cet oeil vidéo est en train de miner toutes mes forces je ne peux ... plus ... resister"


J'ai vraiment failli tomber dans les pommes, ce qui aurait fait désordre sur le sol en béton brut (évidemment).

Aucun jean ne peut valoir autant de malheur humain/juridique. Je vais devoir le ramener. Putain. C'est qu'il est loin, ce foutu magasin. Il faut prendre le tram No. 7 (celui qui vient uniquement le deuxième jeudi du mois de 15h à 17h) et rester dedans jusqu'à ce que tu penses que tu dois être arrivé en Bulgarie, au moins, et tout espoir de revoir un jour ta famille est perdu. Après il te reste ENCORE à essayer de traverser la Place Meiser (espérance de vie piétonne: 32 secondes par beau temps).

3. Autre nouvelle "fashion" (cough cough): Encore une fois, Cos (le H&M pour vielles comme moi qui aime ressembler à des profs d'arts plastiques) a exigé son tribut: entrée pour chercher un jean moins cher que le modèle 'Deux Jours d'Ennui Juridique', je suis ressortie avec une enième robe "sac poubelle". Mais pas une noire cette fois! Non. Celle ci est ... beige. Avec un espèce de petit noeud sur l'épaule pour justifier les €60 au lieu du €2,73 du rouleau de sacs Colruyt.

'Waists are for the Weak' (merci, Lisa). 

Comme disait très justement cet après-midi ma copine Marie, on ferait mieux de se coudre des vrais sacs poubelles sur le dos et dépenser la différence en Chablis. D'ailleurs, il est possible de se procurer un poney nain pour le prix de 4-5 robes Cos (ou un seul Jean modèle "Deux Jours d'Ennui Juridique"). Si si, regardez.

4. J'ai également effectué des recherches wikipediennes sur le rat domestique (cadeau d'anniv pour les 10 ans du fiston #1, imminent. Il était parti sur un cobra royal, donc je suis plutôt assez contente du choix final). Très intéressant, le rat domestique. J'ai particulièrement aimé ceci:

"Si la taille de leur testicules vous rebute au premier abord, sachez qu'on a tendance à ne même plus les voir avec l'habitude"

AH, OK, CA VA ALORS. Pauvre bestiole. Avant même qu'il arrive je suis déjà fascinée par ses testicules.

5. Mes cheveux sentent le steak haché.

6. Les plus perspicaces d'entre vous auront peut-être remarqué que ce post est en français. C'est une manière un peu faillot de remercier Le Vif Weekend de m'avoir nominée pour les Weekend Blog Awards, et d'essayer de convaincre les 0.00002 francophones qui lisent ce blog de voter pour moi. Please?

English language summary: 

My hair smells of mince. Rats apparently have very large testicles but you don't notice them after a while, which I suppose is reassuring. I am writing in French to suck up, because I've been nominated for this blog award thingy by Le Vif. Please, please will you vote for me if you can be bothered (voting is open until 29 April)? I think the prize is a pony. Or nothing. It's definitely one or the other. Normal post tomorrow, I promise (with my special empty promise that turns to dust the minute it leaves my fingers). 

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Good, bad, other

I am fine. All is fine. Well, this creature is not fine. Thank you, Tetanus Manor.
Cor, it's apparently been so long that Blogger has entirely changed format. What? Where am I? Who are The Beatles?

Some good things recently: 

1. Fingers has started speaking ENGLISH. This is good not only because someone in my family now speaks the same language as me, but also because his English is so wonderfully careful and precise, very like the child himself. He. Enunciates. Every. Syllable. 'I. Am. Putting. My. Teasle. In. My. Bed. Room.*' He does not want to get it wrong under ANY circumstances. It melts my cold, rodent heart. 

2. I know no one can bear another year of me boring on about birds, which I totally accept, but the peregrine falcon on top of the Brussels cathedral delights me greatly. I like the fact it is just down the road from me, getting on with catching and ripping apart pigeons, whilst also being really quite tender with its scrawny, demanding, pigeon gulping chicks. It is definitely more nurturing that Sylvia Plath the original slechtvalk. It has a more benign air, not like it would rather be downing alcopops and getting off its bird tits in a nite spot well-known to the local constabulary (yes, Sylvia, I am looking at you). 

3. Whilst on extended purdah in the Cotswolds I demanded a trip to the JCB Rich People Theme Park, also known as Daylesford. Prior to that, I had been asked to opine on not one but TWO decomposing animals, as if I were some kind of small mammal Silent Witness type, so I thought an extremely overpriced cup of coffee was in order.

The Country

It was as ridiculous as ever, car park entirely full of shiny black Range Rovers, honey blonde women not eating rare breed goat curd, single sticks of rhubarb for £4.50**. However! I went into the garden part where they were selling hemp sacking for 25 quid** and it smelled bloody lovely. The nice lady who was ironing piles of £50 notes** told me that it was their special JCB Geranium candle, so I bought one and now my whole house smells DELICIOUSLY of richness. All for only ten quid. Also surprisingly strong and lovely: Jo Malone Pomegranate Noir mini candle, which I got for free and would never have chosen, but which is now perfuming my whole top floor and giving the illusion that it is clean and civilised (it is neither). 

4. My skin of death has finally improved. Was it the organic-schmanic cleanser made from Brittany seaweed? The conjugated linoleic acid? The half-hearted attempt to eat a few greenish things? The toad I sacrificed whilst dancing naked at the full moon? Who knows. It is probably just because I have - almost - stopped my nervous tic of picking at the skin on my face until it bleeds. I have been largely successful in shifting self-mutilation back to my left foot where it belongs and can thrive, because given that it is hailing constantly, I am not going to be wearing sandals anytime soon. Neurosis win! 

5. These and these shoes. Though I cannot afford them and am not buying them. No. Not buying. No money, must not buy. And no, I do not care that Jess Cartner Morley says that ballet pumps are over. My KNEES are over. My youth is over. I bought a pair of (flat, of course) shoes from Geox recently, which is but a hobble away from that Salamander place where Belgian grans buy their orthopaedic footwear before repairing to the Falstaff to drink half and half and feed biscuits to the mangy dogs in their handbags. I surrender any pretention to being anything other than over myself. 

6.  M has written some lovely posts about our trip to Paris so I don't have to. Also, she gave me a rather brilliant bright pink sheer Dior lipstick and I am finding it enormously cheering. 

7. We have already booked a summer holiday, which fills me with satisfying smuggery. We are going to the Ile de Ré though, where I have always wanted to go and which looks beautiful, but is also well known for being PARIS ON SEA. I already have swimsuit paranoia. And clothes paranoia. And 'my children look like tramps' paranoia. You are supposed to wear a carefree Breton top and APC shorts and be tanned and violently thin and cycle everywhere nonchalantly with one hand. The last time I went on a bike, I fell into a ditch when my friend Violet tried to point out some ponies to me. I was about 15. 

Some bad things: 

1. It is the school fête next weekend and I am simply not prepared for the aesthetic and aural assault of this year's dance routines. Will there be much gratuitous infant nudity this year? Will there be endless shambolic grapevining from one end of the makeshift stage to the other and a long speech from the headmaster about discipline and rigour tenuously connected to world events? Yes, yes, and yes. Will there be hard liquor? One can only hope so. 

2. Administrative chaos deepens day by day. I am overdue a trip to the commune, mislaid my bank card in a pile of unpaid bills and had to cancel it, and my desk is ankle deep in important documents I have set my mind to losing. I have lists that say things like '€89?' 'Buy jelly snake' 'Les Filles 130' 'Science'. 'p33 400 words' in every pocket and recess. The twice a week babysitter is abandoning me next week, so I can't see this getting any better any time soon. 

3. I have to go on an aeroplane on Monday (hotel review) and I am already terrified, because I do not want to die in a metal box with a load of strangers. My fear levels about everything are set at 'oh dear, I am about to be eaten by a sabre tooth tigre' presently. Today, for instance, I have disproportionately feared: meeting with Lashes' teacher, driving to Rhode Saint Genèse (no, me neither), sending an email to the wrong person, that Lashes had been abducted on the ten yard walk to the corner shop, the arrival of my 2010 tax bill, failure and root canal surgery (not even on the cards, this is pure neurosis). I liked it better when I was just oblivious and stupid.

Also, the getting on an aeroplane will be followed by 1. having to talk to strangers; and 2. possibly wearing a swimming costume. Why did I agree to this? It seemed like an excellent idea at the time, this trip, but I must have forgotten that the person coming on said trip was ME, the person who cannot be trusted to know how to speak to other humans without inappropriately mentioning capybaras, or having to wander off and pretend to study a wall due to crippling shyness, and who is prone to hiding to avoid social interaction, even when everyone knows she is hiding. Yes, I am fretting about a free trip to the South of France, please just kill me right now, roll my body into one of Satan's holes, and take my place.  

4. In the next fortnight my eldest son will turn ten and we will have to buy him a rat. Given that this has been negotiated down from the kind of reptile that eats a rat a week, I am fairly sanguine about this, but still, MORE pets? He asked me tonight to sew a "rat pocket" onto all his jumpers. Erm, let me think about that darling... NO. Ok, maybe just one jumper. Your special rat jumper. Does this sound like a good idea? How likely is it that he will try and take it to school one day? I would rather not think about it. 

I have to go to bed now, because I have to get up early to finish de-lousing the children who have been put to bed coated in a thick layer of what appears to be yoghurt. They were quite entertained and giggly about being coated in dairy based insecticide, which shows at least how thoroughly I have inculcated the lowest imaginable expectations of what can constitute fun in them. On this high, self-congratulatory note I will leave you. 

*He made us carry a giant offensive weapon style teasle gifted by my father home from Oxfordshire. I was immensely popular on the underground, I can tell you. 

**May contain traces of exaggeration.  

Tuesday, 3 April 2012


Yesterday Lashes came home clutching a shed snakeskin, drunk on lemur love. A fruit bat banged into Fingers' head when he was feeding it. Today they had to bring wellies for washing the giant tortoises, and there was talk of meeting the elephants. I am desperately jealous. I am fairly sure school holidays did not look like this back in the 1980s. Well, there was Kilkenny Pony Club camp which was the high point of my year for most of my childhood, I suppose, but that involved concussion and ponies and water fights, not ELEPHANTS (I am not knocking ponies and water fights. I am knocking concussion, it is unpleasant).

Anyway. They are having a wonderful time, they are not remotely blasé about the wonderfulness of it, they have promised to steal me a penguin, or possibly a tapir, all is good.

(There was a lengthy digression there while I went off and got distracted by the atrociously spelled but otherwise enchanting website of the Kilkenny Pony Club; with its glorious liturgy of hoof oil and curry combs and sad, sad, tales of outgrown or no longer fascinating to girls who have discovered boys ponies. "Sad sale as daughter hasn't taken to horses .. a super little man and very hansome" (sic) "too good a pony who enjoys his job to be left in a field". Sob. I WILL HAVE ALL OF YOU. Give me your poor, your outgrown, your wall-eyed, vicious, weaving, laminitis suffering).

Back here, F and I were plotting what to do about our ambient medium-despair in a lacklustre fashion.

E: I am going to run away and join the zoo. The circus is too strenuous. I am going to be 'boring brown deerlike thing barely visible in large barren enclosure"

F: Oh, I want to join! I'll be: 'the sign says there's something here, but all I can see is a bit of tail protruding from a log'.

E: 'Might not even be a tail. Might just be a strangely positioned twig'.

F: I will also bite the zoo keeper.

E: I will develop an expensive to treat, festering sore somewhere undignified and a little bit frightening near my genitals. (OH GOD WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM?)

F: (Shh. From your former tortoise trauma.) I will also smell foul.

E: Yes. Like advanced decay. Carrion. Faeces. We will be the best zoo exhibits ever!

Instead I am in this exquisitely beautiful hotel in Antwerp having a rather peculiar time on my own. Good peculiar - clean crisp sheets and peace, and no mess and a gigantic bath - and only peculiar because of the slightly pitying, if kind, looks from the girls on reception and the fact that they and I seem to be the only ones here. And the severed hand biscuits, but they are traditional. Tomorrow I will investigate some of your suggestions, but only the ones that involve not walking very far as I have contracted some form of spring plague and am staggering and aching and feverish. How do you say 'just shoot me like a dog and roll my corpse into your nearest body of water' in Dutch anyway? Perhaps tomorrow I will find out!

Sunday, 1 April 2012

In which I try to recall the last week

Happy April Fool's day.

(I think this is an April Walrus)

No, I have no amusing hoaxes for you. My resources of 'amusing' were exhausted by mid 2010, as this weblog testifies. My children were deliciously cuddly and tactile today, but after a few hours I realised they were sticking paper fish on my back, which is the rather low key and decorous Francophone version of April Fool's. Ah, small children. I still win because I get to cuddle you which you would resist like rabid weasels under other circumstances but sssh, I will not tell you that.

I have little to relate. The last week has been lacking in drama, which is just the way I like my weeks: the facial leprosy has receded slightly, but instead I have grown another chin. Apart from that I did a bit of work, went to a beauty presentation with toothpaste in my 'hair' (also sweating and smelling like a sheep), read several books and spent every spare moment staring at baby owls sleep. There was an unfortunate diversion on Thursday, I think, into watching videos of peacocks attacking things on YouTube but I think I've managed to knock that burgeoning habit on the head, the owls must not become a gateway drug to more bird based procrastination. The weather was supposed to get bad, but it still hasn't done so and the livestock have been sunning themselves. They looked a bit defensive and shifty when I took this picture, like people having an affair getting caught in a restaurant together.

'Yeah, such a coincidence! We just ran into each other here. Satan was just, uh, keeping me company until my client arrives'

We have been to Heysel this weekend, the balls of steel theme park where hope comes to die, where the wind whistles round the mildewed corners of the replica Vesuvius in Mini-Europe and puzzled tourists walk the alleys of filthy fast food outlets wondering how on earth they ended up here and when the coach is coming to collect them. We went for a 'Taste of Asia' exhibition which turned out to be 80000000 million Belgian teenagers dressed in fishnets and furry leggings and Pikachu suits and Totoro hats and full combat gear with biological warfare masks, and all of them carrying RIDICULOUS PLASTIC WEAPONS all buying expensive Japanese tat and playing dance based video games. 'Japanese stuff' with a downstream market of 'ridiculous replica weaponry' is clearly a growth industry, if only I still had my job as a junior legal advisor to the makers of Pokémon cards, my future would be assured.

As it is, I felt fully eight hundred years old and permanently querulous. Most of the people in disguise, and many who weren't were wearing or carrying 'free hugs' signs. Why is this free hug thing a thing among Manga lovers and other kawaii types? No, thank you. Sans façon. I would not hug you even if you were paying. That Naruto boilersuit is plainly made of man-made fibres and it is very hot in here. The children were a little overwhelmed, if delighted, at this vision of their futures and I kept having to steer them away from the tables with handmade signs that said 'nous dessinons du gay porn'.

After that we repaired to The Worst Mexican Restaurant in Europe (really, I defy you to find worse) and I had a mixed frozen veg medley (carrot, broccoli and cauliflower) fajita flavoured with orange sump oil which managed to make me feel good about my own cooking. THEN we watched Pirates in French and when we got home, I still had to walk the dog. It was a full and frank day and I have refused to leave the house today, muttering in the kitchen with my Dan Lepard baking book and chasing the children away with big sticks when they tried to approach.

(That is not strictly true. I actually allowed them in the kitchen to make cookies, then dick around with Fimo, which I thought was pretty decent of me. I am exhausted with the breadth of our holiday fun and the holidays have not even started in earnest. Also, I discovered whilst trying to remember how hot you cook Fimo that the internet is full of overwrought crafting types worrying that their Fimo is trying to kill them. 'Will I die from Fimo polymer clay?' they ask, which makes me want to put on my best Dr Spaceman face and make up something terrifying. )

I made a lemon and poppyseed cake without poppy seeds from the Dan Lepard book, incidentally and I do not much like the cut of its jib. This has not stopped me from eating fully 1/4 of it (it is a large, large cake) to try and pinpoint what, exactly, I do not like about it (coarse texture, partial use of oil in place of butter, insufficient syrup). I feel faintly disgusting now, so all is as it should be for a Sunday night.

Now I must go to bed because tomorrow I have to deliver the children for their first day of cutting giant tortoise toenails and snuggling lemurs here, and then approximately five minutes after I drop them off, I have to die of corrosive, unbearable envy towards my own offspring. It is a full, busy programme.

(PS: Next week I am going to Antwerp. What do I do in Antwerp apart from go to the zoo and aquarium? I have been to the zoo 900 times and the aquarium 500. I hear there are good shops and cafes and 'culture' and other untold wonders that you do not find between this house and the corner shop/parc du caca. I am hungry to know more and stray beyond 'that square in front of the station'. Please, suggestions, belgo-dwellers who are less insular than I).