Monday, 26 March 2012

I give up

I have been writing all day through sheer stubbornness for a project I don't actually think is happening any more, so that has been highly productive, goal oriented and generally filled with win. Ah well, at least I enjoyed myself, committing economic suicide and got to write about our malign loo seat in the 1980s, which will probably generate some kind of catharsis.

Also, my facial leprosy has spread to my hands and neck and even my eyeballs are itchy, so I declare my seven days of healthy living a failure, some kind of allergy possibly to blame and tonight my dinner has been two miniature bakewell tarts made from hooves and transgenic maize and a cappuccino flavoured Cornetto. Perhaps with an antihistamine chaser. That should sort it out, or else I resort to commenter Beagle's suggestion I just get with the programme and go and see a lovely Belgian dermatologist. She also pointed me in the direction of this most excellent David Sedaris piece about Parisian medical professionals which made me laugh out loud, as the youth do not say. I especially liked:

I raised my hand, international dental sign language for 'there is something vital I need to communicate'. He removed his screwdriver from my mouth and I pointed to the screen.

'Ils ont mangé des souris en brochette' I told him, meaning 'they have eaten some mice on skewers'.

That is all for now, I think.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Sunday

I have just done nit combing in front of TF1's entirely witless coverage of the French presidential election. If I could have simultaneously dealt with my first quarter VAT return, I would have, thereby creating the perfect storm of fuckery and alchemically ensuring that Monday would be Just Fine.

TF1 news tonight was, incidentally, basically the following:

"the weather has got slightly warmer and some people are sitting outside"

"the presidential candidates have consumed some local charcuterie in a variety of regions"

"there is a carnival somewhere, look at the bright colours!"

This is the tried and tested format for the one o'clock news, usually (Jean-Pierre Pernaud, the avuncular, incredibly right wing presenter is famous for trying always to start the news with the weather and saying that if you want news about Africa, you should watch African channels), but it must have been a particularly slow news day. I turned off before the inevitable report on some obscure - and one can only hope soon moribund - form of artisanat.

The tableau of shame:

Liquids: Pretty poor. One rooibos, a tea and a coffee. However the mere fact of writing this down has ensured that I will go and make myself another sodding herbal tea.

Vegetables: Reasonable. Salad. Avocado. Cucumber. Peas. Spring onions. Mustard. Yes, mustard is a vegetable.

Fruit: I am still not winning with the fruit. Watery strawberries from some environment-wrecking Spanish greenhouse.

Ranting: Dear Belgium, Speculoos is not an ingredient in tiramisu. Other places I do not want to find speculoos: in cheesecake, with pâté, on my toast, anywhere except IN A PACKET MARKED 'SPECULOOS', so I can adequately avoid them. Make this madness stop. Kind regards, Emma.

'Styleblog' shenanigans (no, not really): I LOVE these stamps the day release nutters at the post office sold me:





It is my understanding that for the cover price of this attractive, limited edition book of stamps, you get to choose which of these mythological creatures delivers your mail. It is plainly delivered by beast of mythology since it never fecking gets to any real place in the physical world, and I like the candour of this Belgian administrative acknowledgement of the fact. I can't decide which is my favourite, I mean, a unicorn, especially an emo one like this, is hard to beat but CHECK OUT THE WEREWOLF:



I like an existential howl of despair from a blighted, freakish beast of nightmare to accompany my first class mail.

How do I look? Give me another few days and I reckon I might merit a stamp of my own. A full week of daily posting, and I look worse than I did at the start. There must be a moral there somewhere.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Hmph

The face just gets worse and worse. I fear that finally my inner corruption is showing on the outside.

(I've told you before, I'm sure, but this blog is old and getting quite forgetful, that when my sister was about four and poorly she said forlornly to my mother "I'm a mass of corruption", which gives a sense of the kind of household we lived in. Talking of which, Prog Rock rang tonight to talk about Anne Enright, without any kind of introductory preamble. I took advantage of his call to ask him why he had sent me some kind of complex cartoon book about neuroscience for hippies. That may be a misdescription, but it is terribly odd, look:




There are pages of this kind of stuff.

He told me, with pleasing inevitability, that he had read about it in Le Monde Diplomatique and muttered something about soixante-huitards. When I said I had flicked through and didn't understand a shred of it, he said that was probably because "You're all reified, man", then he laughed uproariously. This is entirely typical of our exchanges. )

So: corruption. Masses of it. I'll need unicorn serum and holy water soon. Where do you get unicorn serum in this town, eh? I should stick that on an expat discussion board right now.

The tally of shame:

Fruit: a bad supermarket mango

Vegetables: lots of salad. An avocado. Some red pepper even. JESUS, why don't I look dewy yet?

Adventures in beauty: none, except the ongoing attempts to cure my fingerclaw grossness.

Fluids: Weak grenadine, small beaker of terrible wine, tea. Located Rooibos tea in supermarket, so hydration may recommence.

Small compensations for working this Saturday: a scoop of Capoue salted caramel ice cream. The arrival of this book. Several episodes of 30 Rock. Oh! And overhearing the man in the hippy shop - I bought omega oils, god help me, and a tiramisu, but it's probably made with oat cream and carob - say that today someone asked him if he stocked 'oeufs de chèvre'. That's goat's eggs.

Maybe that's what's missing from my regime?

Friday, 23 March 2012

The Friday Fail

Very little of note today, except holy shit, my skin looks worse than ever, like a medieval peasant in winter, with scurvy. I think it's karmic punishment for having too much pony based fun yesterday. I have not eaten any fruit yet today either; I suppose I ought to do something about that. Also, I ate a Cornetto, yes, I suck at this, but it was 20°C and it seemed worth celebrating and quite frankly, it was lovely and well worth it. I also had some wine tonight. What?

Today's achievements:

1. Said no to something. This is always worthy of note, because I am SO DREADFUL at it.

2. Consumed several vegetables. At least three. Do the tiny beetroot strands in that bag of salad count? I'm assuming they do.

3. Bought some mint tea. Yes, I suppose it would be more useful to drink it.

4. Said to my children this evening "I need you to take a picture of me with this fabric bag over my head" and they just did it, as if it were the most normal thing in the world. I'd say 'my work here is done', but it isn't because Lashes has nits AND lost half a tooth tonight, so I have to remember to do all that tooth fairy business.

5. Managed to 'write' this post despite having literally not a shred of anything remotely interesting to say. Sorry. This pointless ordeal will soon be over for all of us, there there. I tell you what, just to show that I am totally committed I am going to take a cup of oats upstairs with me at half past eleven and exfoliate my FACE with them*.

*Sleep with them in a cup next to my bed. It is LATE. I have already wasted another quarter of an hour watching a baby owl sleep.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Equinophobes abstain

What's new? Oh, mainly PONIES.




OH GOD SO MANY PONIES.




(Yes, well spotted, that is actually the same pony twice. She was the most sociable, or possibly "aggressive" might be more accurate. Do not hurt me, pony, I have more apple)


When I woke up in my treehouse nest this morning and looked out of the window to realise that there about thirty short, fat, hairy, muddy ponies milling about, it was almost eery, as if someone had peeped into my soul to see precisely what it most wanted and needed.



"Ms Beddington? Here are the ponies you cosmically ordered. They come with 20°C and a pain au chocolat. Have a nice day".

DAMMIT. I should have ordered a book deal. Or a job. Or yes, world peace, whatever. But the ponies were pretty good.



You may note that behind this pony I am bribing to get into my handbag with an apple whilst still in my dressing gown due to over-excitement, there is an ACTUAL SHORT FAT PONY FOAL.



Do not be afraid, little horse. The Toyota Yaris is extremely spacious, and full of .. oats?





(Enough pony pictures, Ed).


Ok, look, here's the treehouse.



Here's the treehouse balcony:




And here's the view from the treehouse:



(I can still see a pony, Ed)

It was all gorgeous, and indeed, even without p****s, it would have been gorgeous. I haven't taken any pictures of the inside due to incompetence, but it was pretty and luxurious and comfortable with hot water and electricity and a coffee machine and you forgot you were in a tree until bluetits started pecking at your breakfast; Rich? Like equines and nature and so on? Live anywhere near, er, Brabant Wallon? Do go, it's beautiful.

I do not think the Treehouse Experience was a particular boost to the whole health thing, since there was lots of lovely booze, and a lot of those peculiar purple crisps, but I did trial ('trial'. Get me. 'Place over my vile kapok bark face, with tipsy abandon' would be more accurate) this overnight face mask which I actually thought was pretty decent: lovely scent, quite softening. I would use again (incidentally, I have - obviously - not been paid to mention any products I have been using in this half-arsed health kick, but most of them came free in one way or another, accumulated over the last few years. If I bought this stuff I would no longer be able to afford, eg. water and electricity. I bought my own Tom Ford Flamingo lipstick though, because I am 87% brain dead. Soon I will run out of free stuff lurking in the bathroom cupboard and will be back to eg. chip fat and Nivea).

How do I look? Like a piece of kapok bark blissed out on pony endorphins.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Plugging force

My rationale for continuing with this tedious catalogue of my 'health kick', is that when I am procrastinating (so: always), I will read almost anything, and I imagine some of you may be the same. None of that 'only write when you have something to say' nonsense round here. I did enjoy our debate yesterday about whether rhubarb was a fruit, a vegetable 'a stalk', 'a herb' or 'a pie filling'. This is the kind of thing the internet is for.


So: I had yet another professional knockback yesterday but somehow it has not cast me into deep gloom, and I am wondering whether that is because of this:



There isn't one called 'Overcome Despair', so I went with 'De-Stress Mind' in my (HOT! Only €282, thank you mr heating engineer!) bath and what do you know, twenty minutes later I had already reached the 'pretend knockback never happened and move on with selective amnesia as your friend and constant companion' stage. Thank you, Aromatherapy Associates, that is some good shit you have there. (Seriously, these tiny oils are excellent, even if my newly philosophical state may not be solely attributable to them*).

Other:

Water consumption: minimal, but lunch was two bowls of Green Soup so I consider I have done my duty. Today I have made the ultimate effort of bringing a glass up to my office, we shall see what effect that has, I rather imagine none, unless I need a Nurofen Plus.

Also in my office, an apple:


(Oh, apple, you make it so hard for me to love you with your floury sourness).


This spray for Empresses (I'm sure it says that somewhere, oh, no, on checking it is for Hungarian queens, fine, whatever) which I find obscurely cheering.



Looking again at this, I am amused that the French and Italian name is "Beauty Water", where as the Germans are calling it the more prosaic "Face Water". Well, yes, Deutschland, you probably have a point but let me dream, jah?

It is sitting on my desk next to this:



I cannot see how that will pose a problem at ALL, can you?

How do I look? Grotesque, still. I decided to go for mineral powder this morning, which is the nuclear solution in cases of bad skin. Unfortunately, I had finally got round to washing my brushes (reminded by commenter Karen that it is possible to use a kettle to obtain hot water), look:



As a result, I was forced to use a Body Shop one circa 1988, which coated my whole face in long, pale bristles until I looked like one of those wolf children, but not as cute.

Right. I must go and do some work before my NIGHT IN A TREEHOUSE, OMFG. If you are hungry for more tales of my physical decline and decay - and really, who wouldn't be? - over on Facegoop, M is being made physically sick by the state of my fingerclaws.


*What really cheered me was

(i) Satan posing in this thoroughly undignified fashion. I think he may have become too fat to lie normally.




(ii) Remembering, in discussion with M, a particularly awful editing-English-written-by-foreigners job I had to do once on a brochure that contained the immortal phrase "Also, it is an advantage to have a low plugging force". No, me neither.

May the (low) plugging force be with you today.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

New leaf progress: day one


Water consumed: none in its raw, evil form. Two grudging rooibos teas. Two normal teas. One coffee (what? No one said this was some kind of Gwyneth detox lunacy). By mid-afternoon a headache of intense evil had settled around my temples, but I do not think we can attribute that to dehydration, since my normal fluid intake non-attributable to tea or alcohol is approximately 0,0001 millilitres per week.

Green things: I made the amazing green soup, which was a revelation because (i) it took approximately ten minutes to make from start to finish (ii) it did not require stock, because really, WHO has stock sitting around (Peter, do not answer that)? (iii) I did not even have to chop an onion or peel anything; and (iv) I did not manage to make it taste like silt. The green soup is a win. There will be green soup for lunch today. Green soup for the people! ('The people' generally, not the people I live with, who, to a man, refused to touch my lovely green soup)


Green soup

The Fruit Challenge: I bought some strawberries, which were largely tasteless, what with it only being March. I also had frozen berries for breakfast (which I used to do every day back when I still had standards). They were .. fine. Not as good as Charli pumpkin seed bread toasted with salted butter and Christine Ferber rhubarb and mint jam, which I also had, because this is not a diet, just an attempt to look more like a human being, and also, rhubarb is a fruit. Well, I think it is. Now I have doubts. Anyway, if it's not a fruit it's a vegetable which is EVEN BETTER.

Cosmetics brush cleaning: fail. Absence of hot water put me off. I'll just not wear any make up, shall I, and put this convenient paper bag over my head instead.

Other fail: leftover birthday cake. Happily this is now finished and there will be no more buttercream sabotage.

And how do I look? Still hideous, atrocious. I might look better if I could stop picking at my cheek and making it bleed, but apparently that isn't going to happen anytime soon. Still headachy, but the orthodonist can sort that out* with a mere 18 months of fixed braces top and bottom at a cost of .. actually he wouldn't say. I think he was embarrassed and I had already got emotional when he started casting aspersions on the state of one of my roots when THE NORMAL DENTIST SAID IT WAS FINE, DON'T SAY ROOT, WAAAAH. Sob.

(*Possibly. He is not even sure. It might be nothing to do with the tooth grinding)

Today I will test out some of the comment suggestions, possibly including eating salmon/putting oats or perhaps aspirin on my face/scrubbing with salt and olive oil in the shower, since FINALLY the hot water is back and I can actually have one. I had some of the Clinique Daily Scrub someone recommended, but I had to bribe the babysitter with it last week when I was an hour late due to getting on the wrong bus, so that's out, but there's still the option of a trip to Lidl to see if they have mangoes. It's a whole world of possibility out there! I'll just curl up on this pile of coats like a dormouse for five minutes and then I'm sure I'll be fine.

Monday, 19 March 2012

New leaf

I am really, really fecking tired (children's party: treasure hunt over 4 floors/pinata/high pitched screaming/krautrock/buttercream/non-RSVPing surprise guests/WHATEVER) and I want a bath but oh, no, the boiler is being an obstructive dickhead, so instead I will just bathe in this, erm, glass of red wine. I could, of course, also bathe in the loving warmth of my precious infants, but their warm love is rationed as they are busy watching "La Vie de Palace de Zack et Cody" or some such shit, because we have CRACKED, and none of us can bear another episode of the cretinous anglophone "Kid Detectives". I would rather they could not longer speak my language than that they end up being incredibly fluent English speaking yet inept Australian child forensic technicians.

(Despite this, I rather like them tonight. Especially now they are in bed, but they were pretty great even when they were awake. Call it a Mother's Day miracle, even though it is not Mother's Day here).

ANYWAY. The point of this post, and yes, there is one, is this:

I have just seen myself in the unforgiving, cold light of Photo Booth (I was showing M my new lipstick, very nice) and holy mother of Pokémon, I look rough. The spring brightness is here and not only are my windows shown for the smeary slattern traps they are, my face, too, is a testament to neglect, Peanut Butter Chunky KitKats and booze: puffy, grey, spotty, lots of chins. Many, many chins. Something must be done. For the next week I am going to try and do something about it, and post my feeble, ineffectual exploits every day. It will be a good exercise for me (the writing, I am not ACTUALLY going to exercise, obviously). If you have any suggestions - non expensive, non surgical, preferably - do place them in the comments. You know, stupid facemasks using household ingredients, tried and tested alternatives to the demon water, that kind of thing.

Today I will start by:

Eating some green things. Including some fruit. Sometime in the last two years I sort of went off fruit. I'm sure fruit used to be one of the things I ate most of, to the point where it eroded my tooth enamel. I must make my peace with it. There are only ever apples and bananas in the house and I repudiate the banana and all its works, so maybe I will have to start by acquiring some other fruits. Do suggest fruits, if you can think of any whose work you admire. I used to like mangoes but the Belgian ones are, without exception, rubbish. (Brussels dwellers: where do *you* find decent mangoes? Inquiring minds demand to know).

Washing all my make up brushes in case they are giving me some kind of scrofulous face disease.

Making one of these two soups: Trish's "green" or this one M recommends. I am the worst maker of soup in the world. I am the reverse soup alchemist, taking perfectly nice ingredients and reducing them to a sort of filthy, brown pond scum that tastes stridently of cumin and disappointment.

Oh GOD, yes, I suppose I ought to drink some water too. God. This will really be under sufferance. Perhaps I need to dip a toe back in the sordid underworld of the herbal infusion?

That is all. Baby steps. I will report back.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Various Things Possibly Worthy of Note This Week



1. I hate these shoes with the fiery heat of a thousand suns. Well, I like them in the abstract. I like to look at them: that red is a particularly lovely shade, brighter than bordeaux, subtler than pillarbox. I like them on my feet, even, as long as I am sitting still at a desk or on a sofa; they aren't particularly uncomfortable and the heels aren't the kind that make you think fondly of foot-binding. However out in the world they are more useless than a blind, defenceless, three legged kitten for the purposes of actual walking. The heels are precisely the dimension calculated to catch in every single paving stone, grate, slight patch of uneven ground in the whole of Brussels (and god knows, Brussels is nothing BUT uneven surfaces at the moment). I have measured them, in order to avoid making the same mistake in future: the deadly dimension is 9mm. I wore them this afternoon and my shoe was pulled right off my foot something like twenty five times in two hours. Every time I would rant and swear like a lunatic which definitely added to the overall impression of elegance and togetherness. The last straw was when I tried to run for a tram and both shoes just gratuitously FLEW OFF. This cannot continue.

2. I have acquired some business cards, finally. I think I had some kind of psychological barrier, like, what on earth would I put on them? 'Fantasist. Dilettante. Poor Credit Risk'. Actually, I quite like that. The other option, suggested by Peter, was "salty tears of mortified shame are the best condiment" but that was too dear.

Basically, I am not gainfully employed by anyone in any capacity to any significant degree, so having cards seemed like an act of god-tempting hubris. Eventually this superstitious aversion to putting a name to what I do was outweighed by the fact I looked like a hopelessly unprofessional basket case whenever anyone asked me for one. They are not things of beauty: they are about as spartan as a business card can be, which is my employment gods-appeasing sacrifice. Please don't take away the remaining shreds of my employment, deities. I quite like my kidneys.

3. The birds are back! Welcome back, my old friend the slechtvalk, sitting balefully in your cosy nest of bare stones, somewhere miles above Holland, wondering what to dismember for dinner tonight. I have spent significant parts of today staring at your empty box of pebbles. No sign of my favourite owl as yet, but the storks, "the Paul and Linda of the bird world" as the magnificent Miss Underscore described them, are back, tidying compulsively and thrillingly this year there is a new kingfisher in its nesting box. This is the last time I mention birdcams because M has already threatened to rip my face off. (UPDATE: My favourite owl is back, hooray and it has a chick. Please don't hurt me, M).


4. Springtime has reached Uccle. The Uccle ice cream parlours - of which there are a surprising number - are packed with people ordering six scoops of speculoos and cuberdon and other things that do not exist outside of Belgium, with whipped cream and sprinkles. The Parc du Caca is redolent of teen hormones and skunk weed. Oscar has spent the day whining to get outside in order to eat a bit of old stale baguette someone left out for Satan. It haunts him, like the knowledge that there are still peanut butter chunky KitKats in the cupboard haunts me.

Satan is blackmailing me into providing a constant stream of wilted bagged lettuce by sitting on my daffodils and very slowly, very deliberately nibbling them whilst looking over at me. Occasionally there is a moment's truce when they both flop on the bare, Satan-scorched-then-shat-upon earth, like so.


Like Christmas day football in No Man's Land

Even so, it is very welcome, the fiery orb, though the weather forecast is suggesting that it will 'turn' on Sunday morning when I have 8 small boys coming to rampage through the house intent on pillage and destruction. Not even my pinata can help me.

Incidentally, I have realised that my pinata looks terribly like St George's dragon from the Mons Ducasse carnival thingy.

My pinata:




St George's dragon:


Are they by any chance related?

Perhaps I should get the small boys to carry it round the street in a lengthy, incomprehensible medieval mummers procession, then start pelting passers-by with oranges and stuffed cats. Never let it be said that our birthday parties are boring and repetitive (or you won't get your custom party bag composed of a pig's bladder and plague charm).

5. I am writing to you from Brussels' oddest, though very endearing hotel, Le Berger. There is a stuffed peacock in the lobby and my room has a bath in the entrance hall. The downstairs brasserie is rammed with architects, though I do not think this is a permanent decorative feature. The wallpaper follows you with its floral eyes,wherever you go.


Wallpaper

Oh. And there is a thicket of life sized gilt palm trees in the bar.



More pictures tomorrow, perhaps, when I also have daylight. Probably more sense too.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Cake, Pig, Prawn flailing

I have realised that Paris is the equivalent of Leeds in my adolescence (sorry, Paris): the place you have to dress up for, the place you view with a slightly starstruck respect and belief you're not quite worthy. This weekend I once again proved I am indeed not worthy by:

- Fusing the household electrics with my hair-straighteners in pre-Paris sartorial crisis, which meant I had to get dressed in the dark, thus discovering on the train to Paris that my cream jumper had a vast grey stain on the front. There was a lot of not strictly necessary coat wearing, which was a shame, since that jumper was my secret style weapon and about the only thing I own that didn't seem to be coated in a persistent layer of miscellaneous grime.

- Falling over on the Place de la Madeleine. through sheer incompetence at the basic business of putting one foot in front of the other.

- Throwing half a tempura prawn across a packed Japanese restaurant in the Rue Ste Anne onto a woman's coat in an unfortunate outbreak of Solo Lunch Flailing (I have lots of inglorious form with food and beverage flailing, include a particularly terrible Red Wine Important Client's Missoni Coat Flail at a conference which so broke me I had to run away and hide for the remainder of the day).

Even so, despite sartorial failings and dyspraxia and prawn chucking, I feel much more confident about being in Paris now than when I lived there, presumably because I am older and harder to frighten and have nicer shoes. I welcome these developments. Failing memory, a hunchback and skin like an albino haggis are at least partially compensated by the ability not to melt into a puddle of mortification when a Parisian service provider gets .. Parisian on me.

Other than that it was lovely, stupidly beautiful and spring-like, happy. I didn't cry with remembered angst in Lafayette Gourmet like I did last time, I bought a heap of cake, saw lots of people I like and went to an excellent charcuterie party with a group of lovely people who revere pig products none of whom I had ever met, but who were entirely lovely. Peter, whose charcuterie prize winning party it was, was not gifted with a live pig during the evening, but other than that it was a truly excellent party. You can read a proper food blogger talking about it here.

You want to see cakes? Of course you do. If you don't, god only knows what you're doing here. You must really like miserable dogs.

Shopping:



There was a distinct rillettes theme to my shopping, in unconscious homage to the pig people. The 'no added fat' novelty Bordeau Chesnel were a sad disappointment, but at least now I know what the point of added fat is. In addition to this high octane animal fat glamour, I did also buy some nail polish and children's pants. All bases covered.

Cakes:



The Aoki chocolate salted caramel tart. FILTHY. Tastes like it shouldn't be legal; wouldn't be if Dr Dukan won the French presidential elections. That pastry is near miraculously short and thin. The salted caramel tastes of well-earned quadruple bypasses.



Ladurée St Honoré Rose Framboise. In my mind this is my favourite cake in the world, but somehow it just didn't do it for me yesterday, the rose chantilly cream was all a bit cloying and shaving foamy and it was just SO FUCKING LARGE. I'm sure that was nothing to do with the previous evening's rabbit terrine and scallops and polenta and mash and rice and crème brûlée AND rice pudding and gallons of wine.




The Aoki Bamboo, which is revered among Serious Cake Fanciers as a sort of cake Sistine Chapel ceiling. This was as delicious as it usually is, but actually I liked the Cassis-Chocolat, of which I only have the most atrocious photograph, better (you can see it here). I don't know, my palate was broken yesterday, I should have been banned from cake. As it is, I now need my jaw wired.

I'm now back in actually also quite springlike and balmy Brussels, for a sparkling week of fillings and legal proof-reading and not sure how useful any of that was for 'research' purposes. I got a bit distracted in my various missions and (i) did not get over to the 17th arrondissement (ii) did not manage to find the bakery in the Marais that sells mouse shaped sablé biscuits (iii) did not even walk up the vast chilly Boulevard Malesherbes towards the Parc Monceau* as I planned. Pfff, never mind. I'm going back at Easter anyway and it will all still be there. HURRAH.

(*My sister reminded me this weekend that when we lived there, Lashes was convinced a crocodile lived in the pond in the Parc Monceau. On reflection, I like to believe he's right. A Bonpoint tweed addicted, duck-mangling, baguette-despising, Sophie the fucking rubber giraffe gnawing crocodile. One day it will rise up and eat every last loden coat wearing, teckel walking, disapproving park patron).

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Fantasy Kindle

I have had a fairly unproductive day, which entirely normal because it is Shitty Wednesday, the day that ends for all practical purposes at 1h30 when I must remove the children from the gulag and set them off on their circuit of, ahem, improving activities, which I do with total good humour, of course, especially on a day like today when it is enhanced by sleet. Mmmmm, sleet. Satan made a special point of sitting out in it to make me feel bad. Or maybe he just likes the feel of sleet on his gigantic furry back? It is Not All About Me.

I am uncomfortably aware that in the time it has taken my Twitter stream to write 43 new books and 8900 articles, go on the telly and the radio and get 2893 new important and influential jobs, I have bought a cucumber and some dog shit bags, written 148 bad words, and nagged approximately 7 people until they hate me. I also lay on the floor for a while and consumed 3 Nurofen Plus (my back is buggered, I think from squirming away from the dentist). Just think, if I gave up Twitter I wouldn't know about all the people out there doing stuff and I could maintain the fiction that my days contain a perfectly reasonable quantity of achievement. Not to mention all the time I would save not reading about brilliant stuff other people have done might actually come in handy for, you know, achieving stuff. Anyway. We all knew that already, didn't we. First world problems, volume 800000.

In better news, I have been amusing myself with a new form of modern parlour game: it is called "pretend you are loading an imaginary Kindle for members of your family'.



Family Member 1

Bad Things: A Monograph

Anthrax for Dummies

Enormously Big Numbers and The Men Who Love Them

Some Really Horrible Periods in History In Eyeball-Rupturing Detail

When No One Understands You: How to Communicate With Idiots

The Grave Scenarios Handbook

Further Grave Scenarios


Family Member 2

A Depressing Abstract Idea Deconstructed by Mary Midgley or Similar

Огромный, темный девятнадцатого века русская вещь

Densely Printed Monograph That Was Well Reviewed in Le Monde Diplomatique.

100 Ways With A Bag of Sainsbury's Budget Lentils

Multi-Volume Biography of Someone You Have Never Heard Of But Undoubtedly Should Have

Etwas schräg, in einem Heinrich-Böll-Novelle bezeichnet.


Family Member 3

Who Moved (All) My Stuff? A Memoir of Confusion

How To Fake It Convincingly When The Chips Are Down

The Minimum Effort Handbook

World of Lizards

The Improbable Encyclopaedia of Made Up Scientific "Facts"

101 Activities Without Leaving Your Pyjamas

A Primer of Plausible Duplicity

Big Eyed Japanese Cartoons About Stuff Adults Don't Get


Family Member 4

Stationery: A Love Affair

All the Moustaches, Ever

The Biscuit Encyclopaedia

An A-Z of Secrecy

The Best Places for Hiding Stuff in Western Europe and beyond

Brains That Remember Too Much

Coffee Table Facial Hair

A Brief History of Snacks


Family Member 5

Scandinavian Misery 1-300

People in Islington having Marital Issues

Murder Mysteries With A Greater Emphasis on Food Than Plot

Grotesque Forensic Procedurals

Middlebrow Literary Fiction Probably Recommended in the Guardian or Similar

History With Loads of Anecdotes Not The Dry Kind With Battles And Queen Anne's Governments

Escapist Nonsense With Nice Descriptions of Clothes


Family Member 6

Back Issues of The Economist, 2008-2010


What would you put on your family members' imaginary Kindles?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Dental health

So, I went to the dentist yesterday for the first time since, I believe, 2008 (my very first post on these pages was about that dentist, indeed, who was brilliantly rude). I don't know where all this fear has come from. Well, I sort of do - it was my last dentist in London who was basically a greedy, over-enthusiastic child in possession of a large number of sharp implements, and whose nurse once memorably exclaimed "Wow, that's a HUGE needle!" when I had my eyes shut, causing me to open them and observe that yes, indeed, it was the most gigantic needle in the history of fucking needles. Coming after several months of medical torment of various kind, including 2 general anaesthetics (hi, phobia number one, now wholly conquered!) and the second largest needle in the history of all needles being inserted into my knee without any anaesthetic at all, it tipped me over the edge and I had to sit in reception in the E1 Rapacious Dental Usurers Clinic and cry for half an hour, before boy scout ushered me back into his chair for more scrapey hook and drill based high-jinks.

Before that I was FINE: I had a completely buggered tooth fixed in Oxford by an extremely gloomy Scottish man without flinching. I had two of my wisdom teeth removed by a monosyllabic Chinese dentist above the Curzon Soho in about ten no-fuss minutes to the accompaniment of Cantonese soap opera. I had the third one removed by a man on Fleet Street who droned on distractingly for ages about all the things that might go wrong, then when none of them did, sent me back to my office, stoic, with a face full of bleeding drool (my boss didn't actually notice until someone came into the room, did a double take and went "CHRIST! What the hell's wrong with your trainee??" True story). I had infections, broken teeth, the works and I took my punishment and its bitter Corsodyl chaser without flinching.


But since the E1 Enormous Needle Incident, I am dental jelly. I am a dental wreck. This is conceptually problematic for me, because in my own head, I like to think of myself as being fairly nails when it comes to medical stuff. On top of that, even if I wasn't, I have seen my friends and family go through such biblically nasty medical stuff in recent years, I should have been shamed into being robust at a teeny tiny, ridiculous whizzy drill. I mean, my brother had sections of his SKULL drilled off. Even major root canal surgery is piddlingly ridiculous when you think about that. Even so, I had to accept the craven, pathetic truth: I was scared, properly, pathetically scared.

'The fear is worse than the reality' I would tell myself, bracingly. But then an unhelpful part of me would add 'except when it's NOT AT ALL' and go off on a lurid tangent thinking about all the hideous dental eventualities a check up might discover, and another six months would go by without me going near a man with a face mask and rubber gloves. Basically, my approach to dental issues in the last four years has been to ignore my mouth as far as humanly possible, self-medicating with Nurofen and clove oil (does clove oil do anything? I am dubious, it sounds like a sop to the peasants before the blacksmith removes all their teeth to me) as required. But since both my children are now getting complex orthodontic shit done to their tiny mouths, I thought I really ought to (hmmm why are expressions of bravery related to masculinity? 'Man up'. 'Grown a pair', etc. Patriarchy? Get out of my paragraph) .. woman up. Then I read Bim's essay about her unbelievably hideous gum surgery in a semi-swoon and I thought about how whatever ghastly happenings might be festering in my mouth, they would only be getting worse then longer I left them.


So I went, and it really wasn't so bad, once I had stopped whimpering with the medieval peasant belief that the x-ray (witchcraft!) would reveal that every single one of my teeth was wobbling in a soup of putrefaction. As it turned out, this was not even the case,though I probably would have deserved it to be so. So. I have Conquered My (Pathetic) Fear, and albeit I have to go back next week for a modest amount of ouchy stuff (and after that the dentist has vowed to refer me to his colleague in the "uh oh, your jaw is a bit fucked by all that tooth-grinding, here have some really expensive orthodontic work" department), I feel that euphoric surge of superhuman possibility you get when you do something you have been putting off a really, really long time. On top of that, I recently went to the "Commune" (dusty administrative edifice, built on layers of outsider despair and foolscap forms) and completed an 8 month overdue piece of admin and the combined effect is that I feel PURE. Still bleeding from 8000 places in my hideous receding gums, I whirled round the house in a frenzy of virtuous enthusiasm. Maybe I could pay off my HSBC credit card! (no, I couldn't) Write my thank you letters from 1989! Work out where the fuck my tax bill from 2010 has gone! CLEAN THINGS. I am in that mental space where you vow that you will NEVER allow this to happen again, and when you write six monthly oral hygiene checks into your diary with the zeal of the new convert. In a couple of months, all of this - the miasma of disproportionate, looming guilt and anxiety, and the wave of relief and realisation that I am in fact an idiot - will have receded and I will skulk back into my old ways. "I'll just clean them with this twig". "I flossed last month". "They don't feel bad". Until then it is a glorious (if, admittedly, expensive) world of virtue and possibility.


Tell me I am not alone in this, swithering from hyper, administrative euphoria to grubby, can't be arsed torpor within days. Or tell me I am, if you must.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

More misc.

I couldn't really 'do' the internet in London this last week, because despite having a brain the size of a galaxy and numerous qualifications in Science, my father does not have a functioning wifi network and no one seems to be able to fathom out how to create one. I did a bit of my usual lurking in the Pain Quotidien in Notting Hill Gate, catching up on the West London au pair, pilates and villa situation, but I destroyed the entire network trying to upload a photo, so I had to give up even on that. B got so concerned about my absence from the internet that he had to crack out a video of a snoring hummingbird to try and lure me back.

Anyway. I have been to the London and I did not spent more than £20 in Marks & Spencer, or indeed anywhere except BOOTS (mainly dental ephemera and a range of Lemsips) and possibly Waterstones, but that was using a voucher, so well done me. I have seen the Hockney (marvellous), drunk one cocktail over the advisable limit (marvellous until the next day) and been to the Delaunay, twice (very nice, and gorgeous service, but not as visually lush as the Wolseley). I also saw my sister in the flesh and my dad both on TV (sitting next to Brian Cox, no less) and in the flesh, as well as six other extended family members so clan duties have been well fulfilled.

Since then, I have been much preoccupied with Fingers' birthday, which was this week: the house is strewn with Lego warriors and their weaponry, there were very specific food requests and a last minute birthday cake change of heart that has shortened my life by several months, I fear. Having said he wanted "a large round cake with lots of sweets on", Fingers decided, at 6pm on the day before his birthday, that he wanted "a monster with a hole for a mouth". On fait ce qu'on peux avec ce qu'on a as sideburn-abusing 1980s French chanteur Kent put it, so I cut a hole in what was formerly the large round cake and did my best.




My best was emphatically not good enough. My cake was variously described, mainly by Wee Birdy, who found it completely fucking hilarious as "a tapeworm mouth" (yes, look at this, she is right), "vagina dentata", "borderline pornographic", "vaguely Lovecraftian" and "a scary volcanic sex-pit". I took all these comments entirely on the chin, it is not as if I could even really comprehend them, because I was reaching a new height of sugar induced psychosis since the cake involved three varieties of icing and several hundredweight of Haribo. And no, those are not penises, they are Colin the Caterpillars.

"For my eighth birthday, my mother made me a dead eyed sex toy for a birthday cake".

Fingers did not seem unduly distressed by his cake, look, here he is looking perfectly relaxed in its vicinity.


A very, very happy birthday to my gigantic, kind, funny second son, who has been a total joy ever since he was born. Well, apart from the unhappy month when the neighbours threatened to report us to social services because he was crying so much, and that time when he was 11 months and discovered head banging. And then there was that trying period around 18 months when he spent every evening furiously staggering around the flat in a permanent rage shouting "CRACKER WAITING", placated only by regular offerings of Carr's Melts. If you didn't give him Carr's Melts he would headbang the cupboard where we kept them until you gave in. Apart from that, he's been a total joy, honest.

The great thing about having such enormous children, apart from their ability to get up and turn the TV on without waking me, is that they are now not merely able to build their own Lego, but they actively want to do so, so I have taken no part in constructing any of: the chief alien's vessel, the abduction spider, the snake jeep or the golden motorbike of Fangshue (no, me neither). The rise in constant trash talking each other, violence, defiance and laughing at their mother is a small price to pay for escaping the Tyranny of Lego.

I have little else to relate. There is quite a lot of work at the moment which is good, but very little invoicing or progress on Dodgy Non-Fiction Magnum Opus which is bad. Last week's cold is segueing seamlessly into this week's sinusitis with added cold sore, which is mightily attractive. On the plus side, there are distinct signs of spring in the air and Satan has spared two of my snowdrops and one of my crocuses (whilst methodically transforming the rest of the garden into Passchendaele). Next week brings the mixed bag that is: first trip to the dentist in 5 years, interviewing a comedian and a trip to Paris to see Peter and find out about his prize-winning charcuterie bothering trip, and conduct further Intensive Cake Research.

I would close by noting that this time last week I was in the tiny Ardennes town of Stavelot desperately trying to find things to write about so spending this afternoon in front of the fire eating pieces of vagina dentata cake is a massive improvement. How has your Saturday been?