Thursday, 28 November 2013

And it takes me ten more bloody minutes to fail to think of a title


I don't seem to have very much to say by this time of night. Or at all, perhaps? Thoughts come to me, fleetingly, as I boil the kettle in the silent early afternoon and look at the small brown birds fighting for peanuts, but after hours of post-school repetitive Blue Peter Doctor Who Competition chat and delicious torture instrumental practice and verucca blasting and fight adjudicating and French adjectival agreements they are long gone and all I can do is stare, slack-jawed at "Animal Odd Couples". It seems to me the logical consequence of this is that by the time my children leave home, I will basically have all the wit and intelligence of a turnip and they might as well put me in a home straight away, since I will no longer have any idea how to function. Also, they go to bed quite late now, the children, and I still haven't mentally adjusted to the idea that I need to have some kind of evening before I can shut them away, ideally not one watching You've Been Framed with one eye whilst ranting bitterly about discarded socks. It's half past eleven now and my tea has gone cold. God knows what happened here all evening. How does one have an evening? I suspect it's a mental adjustment rather than an actual logistical thing, but mental capacity is precisely what I lack.

Oh yes, partly what happened was that after an unaccustomed and hunger fuelled burst of energy an hour or so ago, I got 80% of the way through making cookies, then realised I had no eggs, which serves me right for trying to make cookies at all, when I could have been watching Animal Odd Couples or lying semi-submerged in scalding hot water like a flabby white alligator at peace with the world.

Just finished a really wonderful run of books (Goldfinch, Love, Nina, the fifth Cazalet Chronicle) and I'm a bit indifferent to everything I start. Recommendations welcome. Oh someone left one in a comment recently, I'm going back to look at it. What I really want is for Fred Vargas to write a new book. It's been a couple of years, it's time.

It is nearly fecking St Nicolas, the upstart faux-Christmas which my children are trying to turn into 'another excuse to be bought pieces of crap'.

I still hate Pinterest and am required to use it for work. Do you have a board of furious capybaras I can follow? Recommendations also welcome for 'boards that will not fill me with bilious lifestyle envy and fuzzy rage'.


New Facegoop, featuring a lengthy comparative test of cleansing balms - YES, SHUT UP, YOU ARE THRILLED. Now click, please? Because I reckon my Francophone main employer might get rid of me soon and I haven't been looking for other work for months because it takes all my withered brain to write coherent French a couple of times a week and do my other tiny jobs, so when they do, I'll be doomed. The Guardian moderators have deleted the comment which suggest we "use jizz" now.

One of the advent calendars I self-gifted myself in a fugue state arrived today and I LOVE IT. It is 24 tiny envelopes. God knows what is in them. I have forced F to number them randomly for me for extra thrills (he took this task extremely seriously).

I am testing a hotel on Saturday night and they are giving me afternoon tea which includes little square cakes, which I hope will look like this and I will sleep on clean white sheets and not watch a second of Top Gear and no one will be able to make me give my opinion on the most crowd-pleasing shape of sonic screwdriver before daylight.

Excellent discussion with my sister on the subject of celebrities in York, after this deathless Evening Press number ("Woman eats food". I once worked with a very funny man in a very grim job who described all such local newspapers - we were doing something contentious to a local airport and it created a lot of 'angry people in local newspapers' style comment - as "Cornishman hurts knee". Now whenever I see one, Richard comes to mind). My sister (who is no friend of punctuation): "reminds me of when toadfish from neighbours was spotted in the gallery and it was the talk of the town for months people were ringing each other and coming out form all over town especially to try and spot him". I miss York. I will enjoy being back at Christmas. Two weeks! York, Dales, and a tiny bit of Scotland, including high jinks with far flung and much missed B. Booze. Cackling. Plans to make the weepette wear a Tam O' Shanter.

Riding/jumping the naughty Gecko who is hell bent on biting my arse. I am scared to turn my back anywhere near him now and he knows it. I still love him though and his furry unclipped winter coat legs and indeed all of him except his enormous yellowing teeth.

Terrible, stupid, horribly funny discussion with M about at turd on a wall, none of which I will reproduce here, doubtless to your relief.

How was your Thursday?

Tuesday, 26 November 2013

Encore une fois


I used to like birthdays and now it seems I don't. It started last year and continues and I have no explanation for it other than age. It is mine today and I mainly spent it sulking in the attic. This is the kind of thing my mother would have lovingly and firmly slapped me down about, the birthday sulking.

I look lovely for 68, so it's a shame I am 39. I have a large spot on my nose, eye cream induced pink eye, pronounced jowls and have been suffering from recurring attacks of vertigo/dizziness.


You have to google a really long way before you find a scary reason for attacks of vertigo/dizziness. They all seem to be ear related. Dull, but non-fatal, which is a relief.

My family have amused me considerably. L gave me a card he had made detailing the many evils of quinoa:

Prog Rock gave me a second hand short story anthology and a CD of carols (?). F has taught me how to say "Who is the master of the small dog? I am the master of the small dog" in Chinese (very difficult, you basically say five variants of the same word at one point). My sister got me a very sweet teeny weeny clay nativity, because she knows my fatal weakness for Christmas stuff:

I also got a Flemish trucking birthday card (tag line "Nu ben jij de MAN", now you're the MAN) and BINOCULARS. Oh, how the Wanstead Birder, he who coined this blog's tag line, will laugh. I did actually ask for the binoculars: I am too shortsighted and eye-strainy to see the tiny brown birds in the back yard properly and I want to. What? Shut up. I'm sixty eight, you know.

We have been to the Chalet Robinson (restaurant on island in the lake in Brussels park, accessible by weeny ferry) for chips and salted caramel sundaes, as birthday tradition demands. Look how pretty it looks in the dark:

 The geese were particularly vicious, roaming around in a pack, honking and aiming for tender calves.

Apart from the on-the-day sulking, everything is fine, really. I know this probably sounds a bit grudging, but I'm quite suspicious of professions of domestic contentment and personal/professional fulfillment, because obviously they summon certain disaster in their wake. So, sssh. I'm ok. Don't wake the kraken.

Saturday, 23 November 2013



Oh, I had to take Houdini the rat to be put down yesterday and it was awful. Of course it was mainly awful for the rat, but I found myself very weepy, even though until he got sick, the rat cordially hated me and everyone else. When I read about people's pets having to be put down, they know exactly when it's time. I did not know when it was time at all. It was fucking awful. He looked really dreadful yesterday morning (despite my feeding efforts, he obviously couldn't get enough food and was skin and bone, and terribly shaky on his pins), but when I put him in the box to go to the vets he looked all perky for a moment and I just didn't know if it was right or not. When we got there he looked dreadful again, and there was a sort of sore on his chin I hadn't noticed. I don't know. I didn't know with Satan either. Do you eventually get a feel for this when enough of your pets die? Shit.

 Anyway, crap rite of passage #278 completed: getting your child's pet put down. I still feel a bit shit about the whole thing, even though it was definitely more or less time, give or take a day either way, and I feel awful for the remaining rat, who presumably needs a new friend (though apparently adult males are the worst kind at making new friends). I also feel even more tenderly than usual towards Prog Rock who during my childhood came in for a whole HEAP of ailing pet action/abscess tending/demise, which I can't imagine he ever thought would be part of the equation when he fell in love with my mother.

When I called the vet up and asked when was quiet (I didn't want the poor bugger to suffer unnecessary trauma from fat hypoxic bulldogs, like last time), they told me I could come anytime, since they had a "special room". I was hoping for something like the relatives' room on Casualty, with black and white photographs and boxes of tissues, but no, it was like this:

..which was disappointing.

Houdini is currently in a box in the cellar waiting for T to come home from science. We have dug a hole. I hope not to have to repeat this imminently, but rats do have a short lifespan, so I am prepared (am I?).

My wicked and delightful friends M, B and F were a very great, dark hearted comfort in the last day or so. B made me a photo montage of me holding the surviving rat aloft in the manner of the last scene of the Lion King, based on a suggestion from M.

F told me she could easily send me a new one from the subway. "You can call him C Train". B poured cold water on this suggestion.

""They’re big f*ckers.  You think weepette has anxiety now?  Within three days, it'll have a teardrop tattoo and be referring to itself as the rat’s prison wife"

If anyone asks me what my friends are best at, "making me laugh about awful stuff" will be really high up the list.

L is taking it well. He said a brief goodbye to the scrawny rat-in-a-box, we both had a little cry and when I got back he was basically ok. We shared a manly shoulder clench, then he went and watched Top Gear and I drank an enormous glass of red wine. I think he had done his grieving already. Is it ridiculous to get this sad about a rat? I don't know. F was an odd mix: appalled and embarassed at me expressing emotion (I remember feeling this about my parents), clear headed ("c'├ętait mieux pour lui, it was for the best", he told me afterwards. He thought it was time, at least) and not really that bothered.

In not entirely animal related news, someone has just recommended a balm that prevents cows udders from freezing as a face cream on our Facegoop winter skin post, and this delights me.


Also, tenuously, on a pet theme, but this tickled me hugely, stupidly today:

Thursday, 21 November 2013

Classy twine


F is still watching sodding gyroscope videos. I think his new strategy is to bore me into getting one to shut him up.

I have spent the last half hour trying to coax the sick rat to eat whilst the healthy rat takes full advantage to crawl all over me and shit under the curtains and escape. I think L is finding the reality of imminent demise too much to handle so most of the rat-coaxing duties fall to me (the rat has an inoperable tumour and the vet has sent it home to live out its remaining comfortable days in a familiar environment. "Make a fuss of him", said the vet, but of course, this is the Jean-Paul Sartre of rats, who cordially loathes all human company. All I can really do is offer him delicious and easy to eat foods and leave him in peace in his stinky house).

(Gah, been interrupted by reappearance of weeping L again. He is taking this so so hard, poor thing. Many nights of rat tears) .

Wore Spanx today in the hope they might improve my posture, but I just have Constricted Waist Rage.

I am supposed to be at the rehearsal for the Cadre Noir de Saumur tonight and I'm not (combination of childcare gnarl-up and not actually having anywhere to write about it). Je suis gutted. *Piaffes, desolately, jumps over a heavily laden banqueting table to the accompaniment of Verdi*

I think I might have bought another advent calendar in a fugue state yesterday night.


THIS. THISTHISTHIS. Seriously, click the link and admire, whilst, regular readers, also remembering that I did this first, sort of, with shitty, slapdash, felt execution. "The spider" says M "Is a real spider pretending to be a tortoise in a spider cosy". Which is an alarming thought.

Jumping today on the lovely Gecko, which was exhilarating and terrifying and wonderful. It takes a bit of bravery and some deep breathing and then afterwards I feel superhuman for twenty minutes, which is incredibly rare for me.

Enjoyable guide to the mysteries of Williams Sonoma, via mr Cookblog, who I also saw in New York and a great deal of fun (and food) was had by all, except possibly by the crabs slaughtered in our honour.

Going to London in December, briefly, for pre-Christmas thrills.


I didn't take any pictures today, so you'll have to have one of our holidays. One day, perhaps, I will tell you the epic tale of our trip to Petra, but for the moment, suffice to say that this is After the Donkey Blues but before The Puppy Related Weeping and the Plush Camel of Negotiating Sorrow (we had a lovely, lovely time, but that day was quite something, that and the Contact Lens Incident, also a story for another time). I love how we are all ignoring the majesty of Petra here. Whatever, ancient Nabataean Monastery. L has pre-teen sulking to do and I need to faff at my child's face. You can't take us anywhere.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Season's greeting


I fell over on some slippery leaves in the park yesterday and everything aches and my hips have seized up and when I get up I utter an involuntary guttural squawk like an abandoned baby vulture and clutch my mid-section. I also have permanent eye strain and can no longer spy on the tiny brown birds in the garden (causing me to long for binoculars). I am officially 900 years old.

I downloaded a template for making an adorable vintage style decorated matchbox advent calendar in the middle of some holiday related psychotic break (these are frequent and prolonged in late Nov-early Dec, before I reach the crucial "fuck it" tipping point and get everyone a bar of Cadbury's Old Jamaica or a book they already own) and now I have to try and find 24 tiny matchboxes. If you try and buy that many boxes of matches people think you are either (i) a survivalist or (ii) a pyromaniac.

I do not dare look at my bank balance, which is a shame since I have around €1300 in outstanding bills to pay. I do, however, feel fairly confident it contains nowhere near that much money.

Younger spawn is in one of his phases of being obsessed with a ludicrous internet gewgaw. The cycle this follows is wearingly familiar:

1. Sees ludicrous gewgaw in Picsou/Science et Vie Junior/on Friday Download. (Current object of desire: a gyroscope. Previous objects: plasma ball, Ostrich pillow, magnetic putty, reading light with "eye" that shuts, etc etc etc).

2. Googles gewgaw obsessively. Talks, obsessively, repetetively, at length, about gewgaw.

3. Decides he CANNOT LIVE ANOTHER MOMENT, and certainly not until Christmas, without gewgaw and must spend own money thereon. Intensive, Which? magazine style trawl through numerous internet purveyors of expensive tat ensues, in which parental advice and opinions are repeatedly sought, and rejected. Settles upon object. Fails to include P&P in financial calculations for which aged parent is apparently supposed to then stump up.

4. Awaits, febrile, arrival of parcel. Asks every day when parcel is arriving. Checks letterbox repeatedly. Requests access to online tracking. Sighs, last thing at night, at how impatient he is for much anticipated, longed-for, precious gewgaw.

5. Gewgaw arrives, to great exultation. Plays with for approx 30 minutes, loses interest.

6. Cycle begins again.

It is a good thing he is very well-behaved and funny and largely charming, or I could be tempted to put him up for sale in Picsou magazine.

I am testing eye creams and I hate eye creams and they keep getting in my eyes and making them even more bloodshot than usual. Test result spoiler: I HATE ALL EYE CREAMS.

I am having horrible punctuation problems due to most of my current workload being French. In typographically correct French you have to leave a space before and after any punctuation mark that has two parts to it, thus : which is hideous, but once you are used to it, how do you stop ? You don't ; and English people think you are incapable of following basic rules (which you indeed now are, due to intense hand/brain confusion).


New Facegoop on winter skin, krakens and getting eaten by wolves at Hackney Wick, please to be clicking.

Two whippets walking together are a hilarious sight, like a mini peloton of simpletons.

Also on a dog theme, someone I know is getting one from a shelter and they showed me the site and I have stumbled on this creature:

Beretta! I love you.

This came out while I was on holiday and I LOVED writing it. I wish I had more jobs like this (yes, that would require me not to be such a craven wimp and go out and look for them)

It is snowing tonight (well, disgusting wet slushy stuff but definitely white) but the fire is on and I am going to have a bath and read the Cazalets and not work, inefficiently, for many half-arsed hours as is my wont in the evenings presently. That, or watch the whirling circle of doom as some telly programme I should have watched weeks ago buffers.


Horse ying and yang. What kind of horse-human relationship crisis was happening in the town centre this afternoon requiring a home visit? Mind. Boggled. I hope one day to be in the position to have need of his services.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Stuff I saw in New York

(Hello. Sorry. This is like that "I went to market game", in my head. )

I went to New York (I am thirty nine next week and this was my very first time in AMERICA) and I saw:

- My virtual friend F for realz, and she was beautiful and kind and wickedly funny, entirely as I expected and we did not get shot at Bryant Park ice rink where there was a coat related shooting incident, but it was quite a close thing. (It wasn't really, but I like to imagine it was and am dining out on it)

F: I'm very glad I didn't take you there. You would have started a turf war.

E: I might have inadvertently complimented someone's coat.


- Two live rats and one dead rat.

- Loads of Greek phalluses.

- A tiny Etruscan owl on a delicate cup.

- And a real eagle owl glaring out over the Central Park Zoo railings.

- An outsized chocolate turkey (this features in two out of only about 8 photographs I took):

- Lots of dogs in shoes, none looking at all happy about the shoe wearing.

- Adam Sandler and his family having sushi two yards away from us.

- The 8am queue for cronuts outside Dominique Anstel bakery (approximately 80 strong, features in another 2 of my 8 photos).

- The man in the East Village who wears his cat, Nicholas, on his head and stops for photos.

- The cumbersome, slow, impressive erection of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.

- A German bishop's skull in a heavily gilded box.

- This sign at our hippy residence:

"we humbly and kindly ask AND REQUIRE"

- The Diana Ross Memorial Playground

- A letter in Thomas Cromwell's actual handwriting.

- And, taking off to go back to Belgium, the most stop-your-heart incredible view of the city at dusk, a view wonderful enough to force me to take a break from my stomach churning, sweaty certainty of imminent airborne death, to remove the scratchy orange blanket from over my head and say "wow, that's beautiful", and it takes a lot to distract me from the certainty of imminent airborne death.

So that was all lovely, and now I am back and there is rat mortality, bad skin, bad knees and overdue work. I have hidden a pile of ominous envelopes in a box and lost the box and tonight I need to explain facial contouring in French. Despite all this, I promise to update my weblog again soon.

What have you been up to?