(SKIP THIS BIT IF YOU DO NOT CARE FOR SELF-FLAGELLATORY DREARINESS)
The donkeys and caramel are all over and I am back in Belgium. I have been attempting to make progress on this stupid, stupid cake themed thing I am trying to write since returning from holidays and had foresworn blogging (and pitching for paying work) as part of this process, intending to finish my draft by September and to return, triumphantly to the blog with a new sense of purpose. Ha! I am an idiot. It has been an unmitigated disaster.
Astonishingly, and I am sure you will find this as surprising as I did, sitting on your own day after day, barely speaking to other humans or leaving the house for weeks on end, writing about one of the darkest periods in your life for precisely no money is not conducive to good cheer. Who could have guessed such a thing? Apparently not me.
Thus the last few weeks can be summarised as follows: sitting in the attic in a variety of weathers (too hot, rain, hail, heavy shifting columns of ominous clouds) that I have had ample opportunity to observe because I have mainly been staring into space. I am surprised I do not have pressure sores from the hours of slumping, motionless in front of a screen; I have certainly picked at every single one of my many insect bites several times over. I have gone off on eighty million tangents, each more fruitless to the last. I have second-guessed the crapness, self-indulgence and non-saleability of what I am writing so much my head has threatened to explode. I have "restructured". I have read more Zola than can possibly be necessary or desirable. I have, as an unrelated side issue, become embroiled in a complex incompetence-derived situation involving various bank accounts and child benefit, which has required me to face my demons partially (ie. open some envelopes). It is still not resolved. I have woken up most mornings and had a little cry at my continuing inability to do anything right. I have also watched far too much esoteric, frequently horse-based, sports. I make no apology for this last one. Everyone is doing it, right?
So. Having declared this strategy an abject failure, I am going to man up in various ways and this includes trying to blog much more frequently. I don't know if there are finite number of words available to me in a day as I have thought previously , but even if there are, the ones I was writing about cake were shit, so it is no great loss. These might not be better, but at least they will feature less extraneous material about heavily bearded French authors. Also, I am going to try and rediscover 'amusing'. I have forgotten what amusing looks like, it escaped so long ago but maybe if I creep up on it, I can recapture some. Funny! Come back! I have some dried fruit if you like that the rats have disdained!
(For clarity, I am not abandoning the cake writing. Just, letting myself of the 'no writing but that writing' hook, because it is plainly insane, and I have too many chins to make a good, aesthetically pleasing fist of suffering in a garret)
(YOU CAN COME BACK NOW)
THINGS I HAVE DONE DURING MY FRUITLESS ABSENCE FROM THE INTERNET (EXCEPT LURKING ON TWITTER CONSUMED BY IRRATIONAL ENVY)
1. Brussels is eerily empty in August, which has made it difficult to do any restaurant research for one of my few extant paying jobs, since they are all shut. I speak as someone who would ALWAYS rather eat out than in, but it has been challenging. I have:
- tried to go to a far-flung pop up restaurant which did not appear to exist.
- gone to three places supposedly for breakfast which have turned out, either not to exist or, contrary to their own literature, not to be open for breakfast.
- Stood lamely in front of many, many closed shutters, trying to peer through the gaps at dark, empty dining rooms.
- taken a long, optimistic walk to a sandwich bar and failed to find it (because I was in the wrong street).
- taken a long, optimistic walk to a wine bar which turned out to be run by a hobo and his dog, selling a side plate of ham and some cheese so old it had developed consciousness for €19 a pop.
"This one's a bit strong", we said, poking a cautious fork at a festering pile of angry dairy produce. "What is it?"
"Ricotta" said the hobo, with unblinking defiance.
Then we ran away. In the rain.
It has not all been bad news in the world of Brussels restaurants, not by a long way, but I have to keep the good news for the paying job. Good things I have eaten this week: the "vegetable trolley" at La Paix, with teeny weeny courgettes barely bigger than matchsticks and baby artichokes and vivid green shelled mini broad beans and a stupidly delicious potato purée so soft and buttery it was more of a sauce (that website has dreadful, alarming music, you are warned). Moroccan crêpes with honey and mint tea at the Midi market. A vanilla éclair from Charli and a raspberry éclair from Gaudron. Yes, my post-holiday bitter herbs and steamed sustainable fish régime is going swimmingly. When I am not banging my head against my desk, I am mainly sitting curled like a python on the sofa, digesting, whilst watching amazing, muscular, beautiful men and women performing feats of credibility straining athleticism. This seems like a good division of labour: me digesting, them running and jumping.
2. I have been to Namur, which is, fact lovers, the capital of Wallonia (and, I also know from Lashes' geography revision, the capital of the province of Namur, confusingly). Every time I told M I was going she said:
"What is Namur?"
"Wallonia is not a real place".
I have proved her wrong, however. I know a lot* about Namur now (*almost nothing). It has several rivers and a belfry and a surprising profusion of museums. It was mostly shut on my visit there, due to "summer". I particularly liked this snail sculpture, though it seems rather poignant (I initially typed "pignant", which should definitely be a word):
A sachet of Namur's finest traditional Biétrumé caramels (missing two, they weren't very nice) to anyone who can tell me what is going on.
3. On the continuing theme of mysterious manifestations in the towns of Belgium, I marvelled at this lot, spotted in central Brussels yesterday in large numbers:
No one has thus far been able to tell me what on earth is going on. Suggestions included: "the Luxembourg Olympic synchronised witch-hunting team" and "Mr and Mrs Childcatcher on holiday in Europe". I crave enlightenment. I especially like 'sensible drag sash guy' and his bag which contains a plush rabbit. There were several of his ilk, except some of them were actually women. Once more, I ask you: what the fuck.
4. Wondered what exactly the car parked nearby is advertising:
Is this a spectator sport? An offer to shear your sheep for you? An offer for YOU to go and shear sheep for HIM? For some reason it made me laugh uncontrollably last night. As reported earlier in this post, I do not get out much, if at all, and I had had a watery mojito, which is enough to make me lose my mind. Tonte de moutons should be an Olympic sport.
5. Last night I saw a woman with a ferret in her handbag get turned away from Bruxelles-les-Bains (Brussels' slightly half-arsed version of Paris Plage, mainly composed of 27 identical watery mojito (yes, see 4 above) bars, a teenage rapper trying to get approximately 7 pensioners to put their arms in the air and some sinister gentlemen toting bags of dripping, bloody raw chicken wings for reasons that I would prefer to remain opaque). This was a high point; though not because I am against access for ferrets to municipal events, far from it. Raw part defrosted chicken wings good, live ferrets bad? Not in my world, Ville de Bruxelles. Ferret toting, also a strong candidate to become an Olympic sport.
(Incidentally, it now costs €23 to take your ferret on Eurotunnel. If you do not have a ferret you can take a world-weary whippet with a Cherington Flower and Produce Show "Dog the Judge Would Most Like To Take Home" title to defend for the same price. Bargain! )
Just imagine, I am planning to write this kind of stuff more regularly. I cannot imagine how exciting this is for you.