Shopping/Stuff/How to Spent It In Van Den Borre Which Is A Bit Like Currys
This weekend we have purchased a NooNoo, you know, a Roomba: one of those ridiculous automatic hoover thingies like the hoover from the Tellytubbies, except without eyes and a trunk, for people too effete and pathetic to hoover themselves, ie. me (I once notoriously told someone our hoover was "broken" when the truth was I did not know how to turn it on). We used to have one about 8 years ago, a first generation NooNoo that lurched around our flat noisily like a Glaswegian drunk, picking fights with pieces of furniture. For entertainment (a scant commodity in those difficult days), we would place a biscuit on top and make Fingers - then learning to walk - stagger after it. Most mornings you would find it revving angrily in the kitchen, having ingested half a tea towel in an act of insane vacuum cleaner hubris. We would perform delicate reconstructive surgery on it, removing the chewed strands of fabric, pound coins and lengths of cable from its tangled intestines, and restoring it to full health, only for it to go off and get itself into a similar mess the next day. I loved that thing.
This new version is faster and sleeker but still awe-inspiringly aggressive. It is like a hideous, flattened monomaniacal Dalek, repeatedly infuriated by its own limitations. It has already made a drone accurate beeline for me several times while I was sitting minding my own business, trying to drink a cup of tea, placing itself under my chair and bashing into the legs in a violently repetitive manner, as if in the throes of a murderous cleaning frenzy. The dog, predictably, is terrified. Having introduced the two of them (rolling eyes, look of blank panic, skittish jumps, retreat to farthest corner of sofa) and retired to bed, I found myself wondering what kind of scene might await us in the morning. Oscar's approach to things he fears and detests is generally to eat them during the night (would that we could all do that). Recently, he has eaten his most loathed tormentor, the model helicopter, depositing the mangled pieces under a blanket where he hoped we wouldn't notice. I have hidden NooNoo under a cupboard for its own safety. I want many years of angry, overreaching cleaning action, or at least as many as the limited Van Den Borre guarantee is likely to cover, before it gets retired to the Roomba graveyard, which I imagine to be extremely like Asylum of the Daleks, but more compact, especially if you stack the rogue ones.
Then, because things weren't peculiar enough, we bought a mushroom "farm" at a farm open day fête today, in one of those fits of misguided enthusiasm that come over people when confronted with a jolly bucolic scenes of honest yeomen selling root vegetables and chickens pecking at beer cans and taciturn men in leather hats selling "artisanal" saucisson that they bought in Carrefour. The "farm" consists, essentially, of a cardboard box of horseshit that you put in your cellar and hope for the best. The children are wildly enthused despite neither of them ever having eaten a mushroom consciously in their short lives. It already smells of decomposition, and the advice included not at all alarming things like "if you find you get a fly infestation, get rid of it" and "when the mushrooms turn black, your crop is over". Yes, one can see it might be.
- Recipe for relaxed Sunday lunch
Send children to Quick with their father. Eat Marks and Spencer dark chocolate ginger biscuits on your own, in bed, with Hilary Mantel.
- Recipe for a nervous breakdown
Attempt to replicate the recipes you learnt in your choux pastry class with your younger son. Fuck up your crème patissière twice. Ensure all your choux have holes in them for the filling to leak out of. Smear yourself liberally in every half-assed preparation involved in the whole sorry process. Fingers pointed out a short time ago that I even have choux pastry ON MY BACK. Everything in the kitchen is coated in a thin film of butter and defeat. The dog is crunching egg shells furtively behind the bins. We should have just stopped at chouquettes. We were winning with the chouquettes.
Food Shopping and time required to do it
Still warm, soft, sourdough from Charli (queue time: five minutes).
Phénix cake (cassis mousse and pistachio genoise, amazing) from Saint Aulaye bakery, newly arrived ten minutes down the road from me, and adding approximately a kilo a week to my rear (queue time: twenty minutes, with the dog outside the door keening mournfully). Does not contain phoenixes.
Wild mushroom omelette from a gang of hippies in a field (queue time: fifteen minutes during most of which time a wild eyed man in baggy trousers was meticulously burning it to a crisp whilst staring into the middle distance. Still good though).
Pheasant pâté from Fonteyne (queue time: THIRTY FIVE GODALMIGHTY MINUTES while a woman discussed every fucking detail of her ambassadorial reception, shut up shut up shut up and let me buy a chicken in the name of all that is holy).
I am halfway through Bring up the Bodies as inexpertly photographed in the sidebar. Unlike Wolf Hall, which took me approximately the duration of Henry VIII's reign (though, I should say, in a pleasurable way), I'm completely desperate to read on in every spare moment: maybe because there's a sort of remorseless momentum to events. Gorgeous anyway. I want to crawl inside and live in it, but with modern dentistry and antibiotics, obviously.
Reading something utterly peculiar on the Kindle recommended by someone here, about a medium. Bonkers. No idea what it is. Oh! Having searched back and looked it up, I now know the name of the book (Heidi Julavits, The Vanishers) and that it was Margaret. Thank you for the suggestion, Margaret. Odd, and not at all my usual, but alluring and also, importantly, funny.
I also went to see The Vaccines on Friday night, which was perfectly enjoyable, yet hmm. I don't know. It's all so stupidly catchy, but I feel sort of manipulated and faintly ashamed when I enjoy their idiot two minute flatpack indie geetar pop tunes, like I am basically revealing myself to be a musical moron (I am). The show was fast and efficient and well-behaved and a bit ersatz, somehow, like a band composed by focus group; nothing messy, nothing spontaneous, all over by 10:15 (which did at least leave time for a half and half - ghastly but compelling Brussels concoction of sweet white wine and cheap fizz - at Le Cirio, my favourite bar in Brussels, which is never, ever a bad thing).
There is this terrible French song that is earworming the life out of me at the moment and I have to share the pain. It's like the 80s threw up in my head and Etienne Daho stood and watched. Bastard, bastard, catchy bastard song. The only thing currently able to displace is is Pokemon (which never fails, it is the earworm displacer to end all earworms. Do not listen to it if you value your sanity "Pokemon! Attrapez-les, c'est notre histoire/Ensemble pour la victoire/Rien ne nous arrêtera/Notre amitié triomphera").
Cutting edge review section there, eh. Erudite. Well-informed. Cogent.
Shouty, opinionated column part
I think here I was planning to write an impassioned defence of cake, in reaction to Tanya Gold and Helen Rumbelow's both interesting, thoughtful pieces saying baking is essentially a reactionary, repressive force at a time when there are Bigger Issues than getting an even rise on your genoise, but it's time for Homeland, so it'll have to be tomorrow, I suppose. Tsk. I also still need to formulate some kind of coherent argument rather than just having a vague sense that it's 'not quite fair'.
Letters to the editor, or section contributions, in the comments.