Monday, 30 September 2013

Weekend in the Country, etc.

What, what. It seems wilfully gloomy always to start with 'down', but (i) if I didn't then I'd end with it and that would be worse, and (ii) it's almost certainly an accurate reflection of my character. So.

DOWN:

Returning from a weekend at Tetanus Manor late on Sunday means there is no food in the house, nor even any loo roll and I have already emptied the freezer after a previous episode of food shopping ennui, so dinner tonight is dust, probably.  Dust, a shrivelled mushroom reminiscent of a Pitt Rivers museum shrunken head, a giant Poundland candy cane that is 10 months old, three soft carrots, plus all the expired UHT cream you can drink. Also, I have just had to go to the night shop to buy dishwasher tablets and they were €9 for 20 and I only had €9 precisely and thus did not have enough to buy a Nutrageous and now I want to smash things.

I went on a spontaneous lunchtime trip out to a café, but the café was shut and so was the shop where I was planning to get some food, and when I got off my tram I got a call saying I had to go home and find an important number on a piece of paper (by the time I was nearly home I got another call saying this was no longer necessary). Moral: there is no place for spontaneity on Mondays.

No news on my thieved boots from either BPost, the sender or my thieving bastard neighbours.

Read something I pitched 6 months ago in the paper this weekend. Grrrrr, I hate that (not that I think it's anything other than two people having the same idea; I'm just annoyed that someone else had the same idea and had more success with it. Also, my version would have had many more laughs, or so I tell myself, staring stonily at the screen without a hint of a laugh anywhere in anything I'm doing).

The dog's mid-season sun worshipping psychosis is in full force, with half-hourly requests for me to open the back door, then half-hourly requests for me to let him back in again.

UP:

Lovely, if very short, time at Tetanus Manor, with much bucolic apple collecting (children), juice making (children), poking of dead things (children) catching of toads out of the drains (children), shouting (my father), eating (all) and standing with arse glued to boiling hot Aga, drinking wine and reading the paper (me).

There were a great deal of apples.



My father mustered his army of child slaves:


There was also an epic, incompetent magic show by all the children which was extremely, though unintentionally, funny. L bought a trick involving chains and we spent a fraught hour trying to get it to work, both getting locked into the chains in farcical fashion. My niece did a trick with a glowing finger which had to be restarted after technical difficulties. My nephew did something cavalier with coins and F did a terrifyingly intense many staged card trick. All the adults drank heavily throughout (is this a leitmotiv of the weekend? Why yes, yes it is).

Getting away made me feel quite optimistic and I was able to read magazines on the way home without the usual sick burn of envy and self-hatred and think that maybe one day I, too, would be able to formulate ideas again (this has largely worn off now, but it was nice while it lasted).

To top the whole thing off, Shipston-on-Stour was holding a food festival. We filled in a quiz on vegetables from the NFU, fake signed up to NFU insurance in return for a cow shaped stress toy, estimated the weight of a grotesque pumpkin and bought a profusion of solid and delicious cakes from wholesome women who looked like Mary Berry's sisters. Sadly, the man with the rabbit on a lead was not in evidence.

Train journeys with enormous children are so much easier than train journeys with small ones.  They are events to be looked forward to, conducive to the reading of books and even, if the timing permits, to the drinking of cans of G and T. The children were endearingly horrified by the commuter train out of Marylebone station on Friday night, however, which was packed, and complained heart-rendingly about having to sit on the floor by the toilets in someone's groin. Belgium has made them soft: they used to commute uncomplainingly on the Circle Line every morning at 8, which is a whole other level of discomfort.

On my abortive spontaneous tram journey this morning, several people were touchingly nice to this art student transporting his giant .. thing, including several who you would not necessarily have expected to be quite so open to a giant ... thing.


"C'est beau" said the elderly lady opposite him approvingly after quizzing him at length on the paint used and general creative process and several other tough eggs nodded their agreement.

Tea and cake of the day, somewhat wonkily depicted and, after being thwarted on my café trip, consumed at home (Lyle's Ginger, Kusmi Smoky Earl Grey):


What is it with Lyles Ginger Cake and its fiendishly moreish texture? I could eat a whole one in around 15 minutes and barely notice. It's like Pannetone, but without any hint of Continental sophistication.

A PICTURE:

It's nearly October, which marks the return of the Enormously Aesthetically Unpleasing Pumpkins to the shops of Uccle, as previously documented here. This specimen in a local estate agent's window is particularly terrifying:



It is plainly biding its time until that woman's attention is elsewhere, when it will rumble menacingly and inexorably over to her ergonomic office chair and crush her flat. Now that's a properly scary Halloween vision for you.

More pumpkin news as we have it. How was your weekend?

Friday, 27 September 2013

Filth

DOWN:

When L finishes reading his magazine it is Rat Cage Time, the acknowledged low point of our joint week.

We have already turned his bedroom upside down looking for the lost Blue Peter badge. The search was not successful but I did however find evidence of such large scale sweet smuggling and eating that I am astonished he has any teeth left at all, not to mention several rat (tame! I hope!) droppings, the remains of 800 nibbled Nerf cartridges, 7500 low value Pokemon cards, a Lego person drowned in one of my good bowls in a sea of hardened clay, 32 single dirty socks and two Mangas stuck together with an indescribably unpleasant sticky substance that I believe may be discarded strawberry bubble gum.

We also emptied the Hoover bag which is fascinatingly disgusting. So much HAIR! Still no joy. This badge loss was so inevitable it could have been written in letters fifty feet high on my forehead (no, I'm not quite sure how that would work).

It is VAT deadline time. Be still, my death-rattling throat.

I tried to take the boys out for a civilised 'it's a public holiday and we won't get a proper dinner because we're on a train' lunch, but my fish tasted of ammonia and the waitress was a hatchet faced crone (I especially liked the bit where I asked for the burger without cheese and she said "a burger is without cheese, it's not a cheeseburger" rolling her eyes, and then brought out a cheeseburger) and the children read magazines and would not talk to me.

UP:

We are going to my dad's Tetanus Manor for the weekend to pick apples. The children are touchingly excited to be used as unpaid labour by my father for yet another year. "MOVE THOSE TINY FINGERS MORE QUICKLY".

The sun is shining, possibly even in the Cotswolds. Yes, every day the sun shines in a non-seasonally appropriate way, I will mention it, because I am British and it is obligatory.

We have found an excellent, if almost certainly carcinogenic, trick whilst clearing out 89 drawers on Badge Hunt, which is fake smoke in a tube. You rub your fingers together with the sticky stuff on them, the give them a snap and a flourish and voilà, smoke!

I have run out of time and we risk missing our train, so no photos. Will compensate with bucolic apple slavery shots on Monday.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Thursday

I have totally failed to do this today and now it is terribly late and I am off my face on "Deep Relax" bath oil. Ah well.

DOWN:

Hours spent scanning boring documents = all the hours.

Rogue school holidays in the next 24 hours = one.

Blue Peter badges lost = one.

And rooms requiring consequent gutting to locate Blue Peter badge = six.

There was doubtless more, but mmmmmmmm, the deadening delight of vetiver camomile and sandalwood (I am not paid or bribed to say this, which is a damn shame). Oh, and I have just recalled, also a gin & tonic. The badness is all erased. Functioning brain cells = none.


UP:

1. My computer has been resurrected thanks to its new ruby-studded charger! What, it's not ruby studded? Then WHY IS IT SO DEAR.

2. Thursday is horse day and Gecko and I did slightly bigger jumps today. It was bloody brilliant. I think it was actually my favourite riding lesson since I started going again, though my hips and lower back beg to differ. Yay for the stoic and sturdy Gecko, who I think is at least spiritually part Icelandic.



Gecko bit me today and I such is the extent of my infatuation I did not even care.

3. Pokemon the musical? Yes please.

4. Carnegie Hall orchestra sets up with a sign reading "conduct us", members of the public do exactly that. Both touching and hilarious.

BEVERAGE AND CAKE OF THE DAY (I think this should become a regular feature):



Bloody hell that cake was good. It looks like nothing but it was amazing (lemon, I'll try the matcha next time).

A man on telly tonight was described as a "terrier historian". I am now wondering how that happens and if it is too late to become, for instance, a capybara historian.

Finally, in York news, the following from my sister:


Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Pfff. With added ssssss.

That was a pretty awful day. "DOWN" section will be heartfelt. You are warned.

1. My MacBook charger - or my MacBook - has died. I will find out which in an hour or so. Please let it be the charger*. I cannot contemplate the alternative. Putting aside the financial and work implications, 5 days to the Breaking Bad finale is no time to bail on me, technology. I feel bereft without my dirty, cracked screened friend-stroke-security-blanket and have achieved nothing today (oh hang on, I say that every day).

2. The dog rolled in something so unspeakable this morning I had to hose him off in the back yard, retching.

3. Then I went online to track a parcel and found out that some fucker had signed for and stolen it. The parcel was some cheap boots that yes, I cannot actually afford, as explicitly stated on these pages earlier in the week and I am a feckless trollop, but just imagine how much less I can afford to buy them for my bastard neighbours.

4. I have buggered up my arm - I think possibly whilst reacting to 3 (punching things and stamping around crying, a measured and appropriate reaction. I am not proud, but it felt like punishment for buying the damn boots in the first place from a particularly presbyterian god. I AM SORRY. I WILL NEVER SEEK TO HAVE NICE THINGS AGAIN).

UP

1. 22°C and sunny. I lay in the sun on a blanket in the back yard for twenty minutes listening to bird song, which was very pleasant if you ignored the view of dog scrotum (the dog considers it incumbent upon him to either stand over, or lick, my face if I lie down for a moment. This does not exactly fill me with comfort and reassurance when I imagine what would happen if I had a domestic accident some day).

2. This 45 minutes in the Nice Café waiting for F's insane Chinese lesson to finish was hung hao (= very good, get me. This week, I could also almost direct you to the zoo (dong wu yuan) in Chinese, but only if the zoo was on the left (zuo) and you didn't ask me any follow-up questions, and I could get away with skirting around verbs, xie xie (thanks)).


3. My children latest activity is to borrow my wig and glasses and imitate me, which they find endlessly hilarious. Presumably this is how people amused themselves before they had television and I feel very sorry for them indeed. I should include a picture of me taken tonight for comparison, I suppose, but I look like wan, blotchy, potato faced death, so here is one I took at the weekend whilst wearing make up and having a semblance of actual features in preparation for an imminent Facegoop hangover post. Shut up, I am allowed a shred of vanity. The pictures the children took of me tonight included neck wattle and eyes the size of currants:






F has an uncanny look of Philippa Perry rather than me in these, I think.



I am not sure what L looks like, but he's inordinately pleased with himself.


I definitely can't muster those eyebrows, but I reckon this is closest (probably due to not smiling. I don't have the teeth for smiling):


"You have the same lips" said F appraisingly looking from L to me. "But yours are all dry and peeling and horrible, maman". Yeah.

5. *It seems to be the charger, praise the baby Nathan, a mere ninety euros down the drain. Rejoice! I'm going to inject Aromatherapy Associates bath oils into my eyeballs now, then stalk around the neighbourhood staring accusingly at my neighbours' feet. What are you up to?

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

The pain of snacks

DOWN:

My sinuses are angry and I have approximately 8000 mosquito bites and there is a huge ladder in my Wolfords and I keep having to take my wig off and scratch like a rabid dog. Also, I spent a portion of today looking at jobs and concluding I could not do any of them.

My street seems to have become the place where mad people come to stand and shout angrily today.

I have eaten too much due to Great British Bake Off Sympathy Snacking and now I cannot breathe due to a giant mass of cake in my abdomen.

One child has spent part of the afternoon trying to make cornflour slime vibrate with sound waves resulting in kitchen carnage and the other is enlisting my help to break into a briefcase he found in a bin for reasons that remain wholly opaque. Come back, Mario and Luigi, all is forgiven.

Daily blogging is just revealing that I am a boring, relentlessly negative hermit, isn't it. I may have to start inventing amusing incidents.

Ack, my computer is being temperamental about charging. Grave news.


UP:

Barbara has indulged me with this set of pictures of Icelandic horses in the snow. Mmmmm, look at those hairy muzzles (yes, I realise this is a minority interest, but it's my minority interest, and perhaps if I keep talking about Icelandic horses for long enough, someone will send me one unsolicited).

A stupid tiny work thing I was fretting about last night has resolved itself without me having to do anything.

An absolutely lovely escape from the house this lunchtime to go and talk about an upcoming exhibition by this lady, who is a delight. She makes beautiful intricate paper art, and her new exhibition is going to be beautiful and there was beautiful sunshine in her beautiful workshop and I have used the word "beautiful" seven hundred times now, because I am excellent at description. But there were intricate fern patterned wrought iron fire guards in front of roaring fires, papier mâché monkeys, giant koi carp flicking around a deep shaded pond, and a light filled workshop full of quietly industrious people making gorgeous things with their hands. There was also wine and a nice lunch and chocolate cake. I'd have been utterly charmed even without the Tuesday lunchtime wine (I've written about her before, I'm a groupie), but that made it even better. Also, she is married to a COUNT who she met at a masked ball and he is incredibly charming and called Werner and told me a story about ending up in a bar drinking whisky with Thom Yorke and not having a clue who he was. Sigh. I wish I was a brilliant Belgian aristocrat. It looks lovely.

L is now doing school cookery club and has come home with a cake aux olives. It strikes me that all school baking classes specialise in making you cook things you wouldn't dream of making for yourself, cf. rock buns and all those baked savoury things with tomato slices on the top. Not that we had cookery classes at Quaker school, because making a wooden pull along rabbit and a pottery egg cup and knowing how to recreate Cézanne's Card Players as a tableau vivant were deemed more important life skills. This savoury cake business is a rum thing, but I like: (i) cake (ii) olives and (iii) cheese which seems to be the other principle ingredient, so I am giving it the college try.

F has been watching a stupid TV programme called 'Who let the dogs out' in which children train their dogs to do underwhelming tricks and is now trying what he has learned out on weepette. Weepette is stunningly terrible at it. Mainly he stares blankly at F with a strained look of confusion in his big black eyes. Sometimes he sits down hopefully with one paw half raised in supplication, since that is the only "trick" he knows. He is not doing too badly out of it, incidentally, because he gets a lot of treats to try and bribe him into the simplest manoeuvre. Often, as F chirrups "In! In!" insistently, trying to get weepette to go through his legs, weepette just pads away gently and sits in the kitchen waiting for it all to be over.

Incidentally, a drunk on the street yesterday described weepette as "ce lévrier croisé hamster" or 'that greyhound-hamster cross', which is harsh but may have an element of truth.

A PICTURE:

Here is a man eating a Cornetto on the 38 bus at 11am, which is the kind of thing for which an old lady would knife you in Paris. In Brussels it excites nothing stronger than mild envy.


What of your Tuesday?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Tiny

DOWN:

I cannot concentrate on writing this ("this", this grand magnum oeuvre that would totally change Jonathan Franzen's mind about the creative value of the Internet) because it is too noisy in here, with 'Gadget Man' and talking and the table is a mess and I am irritable. Also, I have a sore arm from too much frenetic iphone jabbing over the weekend (yes, the weekend digital detox is going fucking brilliantly, shut up, Franzen).

UP:

Much town centre stupidity this weekend at the 'folklore festival' we accidentally happened across, including (i) the obligatory fat bearded Belgian gentleman in black face with medals (no no no) (ii) Lithuanian folk dancing and (iii) a jolly gang of gentlemen in Napoleonic dress making the Manneken Pis fire water on the crowds. I cannot convey in mere words how strongly the location of this photograph smelled of beer.




On the back of these Meyboom gentlemen's t-shirts, it read "poepedroeger". There are also "buumdroegers". This is not a festival for childish anglo-saxons.


One year, I would like to go to all the demented traditional festivals/processions/parades in Belgium and see how many months it would take to erode my sanity entirely. I doubt I'd last much past mid-February.

Sun today. Just enough to lie outside on a coat for fifteen minutes and take a picture of the dog yawning gormlessly. More tomorrow apparently. This stolen, unexpected sunshine is the very best kind.


Neither up nor down really, this, but I am developing an entirely unfounded obsession with Icelandic horses. So sturdy! So free of disease! They have six gaits and one of them is called the tölt! I have yet to meet one but I live in hope.

ALSO:

New Facegoop in which M is being ineffably creepy about child hair. Click and earn us a fraction of a penny, if you like that kind of thing.

More and better tomorrow, but obviously I must go and watch Breaking Bad.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Got those Friday fox scented sofa merguez sniffing blues, oh yeah

DOWN:

A whole week of no good work achievements (not no work done, but nothing worth shouting about). Next week, I'm heading down the pitching mines until the desperation canary falls off its perch. Please hold me to this. Kick me to this. Boot me lovingly up the arse until I achieve something.

That thing where someone gets you to sniff a food item to check whether it's off? NO. USE YOUR OWN JUDGMENT. I am not going to sniff your rancid merguez. What's that? You've cooked it now anyway and you'd like me to taste it? Um, thanks but no thanks, my gut fauna and I will just stay over here.

There is an abandoned bucket of clay right in the middle of the garden and it has been there for a month. We are all in some kind of 'not my problem' stand-off about who is responsible for the bucket and in the meantime the dog has taken to peeing on it. Of course he has.

Fox scented sofa is actually worse on balance than dirty sofa.

UP:

1. An amazing, totally undeserved package of treats arrived today from the Reluctant Launderer who is truly a queen among women:


There are already only 2 Caramel Wafers left, I note with displeasure on returning home. I like "new chocolatey taste" on the Wagon Wheel package. Admittedly, whatever they tasted of before bore little resemblance to chocolate, but this degree of honesty is refreshing.

2. Just been out for a free dinner tonight, the most delicious kind of dinner there is. There was prosecco and tiramisu with an amazingly strong espresso ice cream and I can't really remember any of the rest because of the prosecco, but I know it was all delicious.

3. A horse on a roof.

4. If you are in London on Sunday and you aren't tempted by this, you and I would probably not be friends. Pie wrestling: a sporting discipline I could probably get behind.

A PHOTO:

The Grand-Place tonight (very busy with YOUTH, sitting on the floor. They'll get chillblains, or whatever it was they used to warn us we'd get for sitting on unwise surfaces, possibly piles, on reflection). It always comes as a surprise to happen across it. Oh yes, I live here, I find myself thinking.


Very pretty it is too (until you get on the tram and someone tries to pee on your shoes).

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Horse Thursday

DOWN:

I need (yes 'need' is a relative concept, but nevertheless) new boots. I cannot afford new boots. My old ones are completely, irrevocably dead and falling apart along every seam and in the broken stump of one heel, a large stone has become immovably wedged, and it clunks with every step.

My Portrait of a Lady body cream has vanished. Just disappeared. No one is owning up. It has probably been used in an experiment.

Writing about cronuts and cheeseburger stuffed crust pizzas in French is an essentially ridiculous occupation doomed to failure (and not lucrative enough to pay for boots).

UP:

Thursday is riding day and today new horse Gecko (Gecko! Who calls a horse Gecko? Few creatures can be less reptilian than a sturdy horse with a crew cut) and I did JUMPING. Teeny tiny jumps, but jumps nevertheless. After a childhood and adolescence of nonchalant fearlessness, I ride as an adult in a state of permanent tension between intense joy and the very real terror of something awful happening. Jumping is like this, but ramped up a hundred times. I was breathing VERY heavily by the end, but it was basically brilliant. Here is Gecko looking totally unmoved by our exploits, as well he might, but I reckon we did ok:



I am not at all brave in any other aspect of my life at the moment, so thank goodness there is this.

Also, Gecko lives next door to my favourite pair of ponies at the stables, one fine, delicate, exquisitely beautiful looking one (to whom I whispered today "I would have killed for you when I was ten") and one tiny, shaggy fat one with tiny stumpy legs. They both share one box because apparently they like company, and I got to spy on them and feed them carrots.

A PHOTO:

Tiny pony shake:


God, ponies. I live for the day when I'm old enough (and have enough money, sssssh) to be a toothless barmy old crone and wear one of those padded jackets full of hoofpicks and pony nuts and have a horse living in my kitchen, which will be a scene of unprecedented squalor and incontinent elderly sight hounds (I don't think this is quite the Fabulous Fashionista vibe, is it? I watched that, it was wonderful especially the utterly magnificent Baroness Trumpington).

What do you dream of in your old age?

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Cooking with Iguanas

DOWN:

Oh, Night Film. I was very much looking forward to you on the recommendation of people whose taste I trust, then you arrived and there was so much of you and you were so unwieldy and having slogged through to your thoroughly anticlimactic end I did not by that juncture give a stuff about, I must conclude with regret that I did not like you very much. What next? I asked my friend F for a recommendation last week and subsequently came across a cryptic 'to do' list on my phone that read "mating Norman rush" and was very confused (turns out it's not available on Kindle anyway). So what to read? Recommendations very welcome.

My plan to go to the lovely café for lapsang souchong and a large slice of cake was thwarted by the lovely café being closed. Woe. Walked the rainy streets and bought dog shit bags and frozen bagels instead and ate Knorr soup which was like green tinged salty wallpaper paste.

Fourth day hopelessly in thrall to a 'Kung Fu Fighting' earworm. There is no dignity in this earworm. I have tried to kill it with the theme from Pokemon, but not even that is working.

My eyes seems to have stopped tolerating Bobbi Brown Gel Ink Eyeliner, which is basically the end of my life as a presentable human being. Full Mole Rat from now on.

Not so much a down as a matter of intellectual curiosity: Found myself googling "why is despair a mortal sin?" today. I mean, it doesn't seem like it's hurting anyone, does it? What's so bad about despair? It's just high-octane moping, after all. Well. Apparently in Catholic theology it is a mortal sin because it involves a sort of conscious, positive, refusal to countenance the possibility of salvation which is a massive diss to God. Fascinating.


UP:

1. The children are gorn, gorn, gorn to diving and I can go and lie in a boiling hot bath in a minute and try and see if 4OD will let me watch the fantastic old ladies programme (it wasn't working earlier, but it sounded magnificent).

2. Today's stupid M discussion: the cooking of iguana, thanks to this picture (from this delightful series of pics):




M: Maybe it's just a family pet, helping her out as she cooks? 

E: Hmm. I fear she's cooking it. The thing on the plate looks quite iguana-y.  

M: It'd be a bit like crocodile, no? 

E: I bet it's a bitch to prepare. 

M: I eat your FACE, dinosaur descendant. (Not much meat on a face). 

E: No. Face meat = negligible. 

3. My delightful friend who has the most enormous steel trap brain and knows ancient Greek and reads everything imaginable is currently obsessed by a computer game about breeding dragons, designed for eight year old girls.

F: Why are you not playing Dragonvale with me, Emma? 

E: Because it is ridiculous. 

F: I am getting a platinum dragon! I am very excited! 

E: I AM TRYING SO HARD NOT TO LOSE ALL RESPECT FOR YOU RIGHT NOW. 

F: I am very good at it! I'm level 30! 

E: I am laughing. Laughing at you. 

F: Every day I get rewarded. I swear to you, it's the only place like that in my whole life. 

E: Ok, you have me. Fair enough. I would like that. Who wouldn't? 

I am still not "raising my own baby dragons on islands in the sky!" though.

What in your life rewards you every day that does not involve hard work, talent or spiritual beatitude? We are talking the quickest and dirtiest of quick wins here, with no higher moral purpose allowed at all.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Welcome to the Hotel Yak

DOWN:

Instead of going for a chic (and more importantly, free) lunch today, I had to wait in for the man from Velux. He could not fix the blind, obviously, and will be back in a month. I had an exhaustingly chewy cheese sandwich and watched the rain, which is really very plentiful.

Another day elbow deep in Belgium's Worst Websites (Indian dance class websites, I am looking at you with your flashing purple graphics and your sitar-heavy musical ambushes).

F has bought a giant air cannon from the Internet and it arrived today. I am typing this with a plastic cup balanced on my head which he is trying to shoot off with the cannon. The dog is losing its everloving shit at the noise and general weirdness of the air cannon, barking hysterically and snapping ineffectually at nothing.

Worst unsolicited email subject of the day that was not spam: "The perfumed garden of sexual delights".

E: I am squirming. Wild horses would not drag me there, whether Ottolenghi is fucking cooking or not. 

M: EVEN IF PIERRE MARCOLINI IS THERE HANDFEEDING BABY PANDAS BAMBOO ECLAIRS. 

E: EVEN THEN. Even if Sadaharu Aoki is hand feeding baby wombats petits fours. 




UP:

Truly excellent discussion with M about the merits of a hotel run by yaks.

E: I would definitely go to a boutique hotel staffed by yaks. No cold appraising looks on reception. Less judgmental. 

M: It would be quite warm and welcoming. They would just blow hot nostril air on your passport in lieu of check in. 


Also, did some good stuff at the weekend and did not talk about it yesterday due to being really quite mardy.

Good weekend stuff:

(i) Civilised Sunday morning concert at the Beaux-Arts featuring F's violin teacher on second fiddle. Lovely Tchaikovsky serenade and various other bits of Russian lushness. Boys relatively forbearing, F enjoyed more than L, who was definitely suffering and required a calming hand on his fidgety knee occasionally, and sighed heavily every ten minutes, but survived. It made me realise how very much I owe my incarceration at Quaker school for my cast iron 'sitting still' skills. I can sit still for BRITAIN, even if there is peacock tapping on the window (as once happened during silent meeting). Your four hour opera holds no fear for me. I will just be here, looking for that of god in the peacock.

(ii) Allotment open day. Sunshine. Pony rides. Hippies. Pasteis de Nata. Lurking sheep.





(iii) Bought some of the dainty green tea ice creams in a sort of chewy rice candy shell they serve here at the weird tiny Japanese supermarket, which was also offering one enormous purple octopus tentacle for €11. Perfect for impulse buys. "Ooh, a giant tentacle, I could really go one of those right now".

A tentacle is a terrible end to a blog post, but it is all I have rattling around the dessicated husk of my brain. This daily blog business is going brilliantly.

Monday, 16 September 2013

Stomach Cake


DOWN:

1. Still got the sick, including a stomach ache reminiscent of Peevish's Stomach Cake (remember that? Only for the real hardcore, that one).

2. I still appear to be a useless shithead and have achieved little-shading-into-nothing. I am, however, excellent at self-loathing, so there's that.

UP:

1. This book (recommended by India Knight on Twitter. She has ruined me many times over):



It arrived today and it's a bloody joy. I love it. We spent about two happy, peaceful hours drawing this afternoon after school, time we would normally spend winding each other up (them) and snapping (me). I have taught myself to draw a capybara (um, sort of. Shut up) which seems to me a vital life skill:


It doesn't look disapproving enough yet. I'm working on it.

L has, predictably, gone absolutely wild with it.





F is still sitting next to me trying his own capybara as I type, which makes a refreshing change from dominoes/Uno/Last Card (Last Card is just Uno by another name though, I am not fooled)/Mille Godalmighty Slow Bornes.

2. Also, and crucially, SOFA COVER CHANGED. God, it was exhausting, especially as the cover had shrunk a vital 5% and would no longer fit without ripping/swearing/tears. Sitting down is no longer tinged with insufferable guilt at own revoltingness. The changed cover smells somewhat of foxes (no, no idea, blaming the dog), but it is not visibly filthy.

3-slash PICTURE:

Every morning after I take the dog for a walk, he sits for approximately five minutes at my feet pretending to be the kind of animal who does the whole "faithful companion" schtick, which he's emphatically not for the other 23 hours and 55 minutes of the day. It's strangely comforting. I mean, god knows what goes through his head (dust, confusion, the impulse to lick his testicles) but for these few minutes he does a pretty convincing Greyfriar's Bobby (is that even the right faithful companion? God knows).


Now that I write that, I think I have mentioned it before. Ah well. I will try and do better tomorrow (ha).

Friday, 13 September 2013

Fiery Friday

DOWN:

I've acquired the traditional rentrée cold, of course I have. Nurofen 400 and doleful sniffing are the order of the day. I'm just going to lay my head on this table for five minutes and turn the lights out (I'm not. The children are coming home in approximately one minute and F is still incapable of occupying himself since he foreswore electronic blandishments, but let me dream for a moment).

Delhaize (crap overpriced supermarket chain) seems to have stopped stocking crumpets. This is truly the end of days. Who has the time (or skill, or inclination) to make a crumpet? Who can get through the winter without a ready supply of the same?

Websites that do not include a contact address or phone number. It's like you don't want me to find you, you bastards. Also, why are you purple and flashing in a manner likely to induce seizures? Nooooo not the musak! Aaargh, rage.

No news from agent on resubmitted chapters of cake book leading to inevitable conclusion they are shit (yes, another type of person would contact the agent and ask, but apparently I like to luxuriate in unnecessarily prolonged misery wherever possible). I'm not really feeling Cake at the moment. It isn't terrible per se, but it's a bit oddball and depressing. I am such a feeble quitter, I should just get a fucking job. I want to work in Belgian panda PR really, I reckon I could be really good at that. How do those nice posh women at London Zoo get their jobs? No, hang on, I'd need to use the phone. Scratch that. Most recent news on pandagate is the excellent pronouncement from the winning zoo that "Pandas are Chinese, not Walloon or Flemish". WORD.

This:



UP:

Things I have achieved today: a cake and a fire (a fire so large, incidentally, that Damien from the corner shop just came round in a panic because he thought the house was on fire. UPDATE: oh god, apparently several people actually called the fire brigade. I am pretty sure I haven't set fire to the house - I've checked twice - but I'm mortified. People were standing in the street and staring and pointing. Fire is herewith removed from the 'up' column).

I made a cake and then I Instagrammed it, because I have become that which I despise. Come back in a couple of weeks and I'll be cupping steaming fucking bowls of homemade fucking soup on Pinterest (no, don't talk to me about Pinterest. My Pinte-rage is undiminished. WHAT IS IT FOR?).


I had absolutely no earthly reason to make a a cake, I just fancied it. I forgot the baking powder but it doesn't seem to have been disastrous. If this cake had a name (which it doesn't because (i) it's a cake; and (ii) I'm not French) it would be called: "I spurn your proud gastronomic tradition, adoptive home country" since it is made with the finest vegetable oil and hoof based 'chocolate' products of my birth nation.


A PICTURE:

This is the dog skulking away and hiding in the woods to avoid a small and not at all frightening terrier called Annecy who he sees every day. I met a dog called Ziploc in the woods recently, truly, all canine life is there.


I am retiring for the weekend with Nurofen and a false beard and hat, in case I need to leave the house and confront the neighbours. I will be back on Sunday. If I haven't set fire to anything.

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Listed umbrella stand

DOWN:

Nothing really, except that I have a completely atypical surge of energy and joie de vivre this evening and I want to run and jump and shout and get into trouble and drink martinis and dance and the programme for this evening contains not the merest suspicion of the above. Rather, I will remove seemingly endless boys' pants from the legs of boys' trousers, ignore the dishes and go to bed at ten.

(Note: today I got dressed up and put on make up and went out and did stuff and am cheerful. Yesterday I did not and was not. The day before, more dressing up, going out, contact with humans and good humour. A perceptive soul might discern a pattern here)

Oh, go on, one more, slightly disgusting. I have scratched/worried at/peeled away the skin on my left foot so badly I CAN NO LONGER WALK ON IT PROPERLY. When I wake up in the morning, I have to limp on my insole to the cupboard to find socks before I can put my foot on the ground properly. This has been an ongoing self-mutiliation project since approximately June and my foot looks like one of the pictures they used to keep in a sealed envelope in the photo library when my stepmother worked for a medical magazine. Bravo. No, really, it's quite the achievement.


UP:

An unexpectedly jolly encounter with a lovely jeweller. I did not really want to go to this encounter, because I (i) know nothing about jewellery (ii) have no outlet in which I could conceivably write about jewellery, but I agreed anyway and I am very glad I did because he was deliciously camp and gossipy and I want him to be my friend and come out drinking with me and let me try on giant Liz Taylor style tiaras in the vault.  I got to play with one of those magnifying glass things you see in films that you hold in place with your eye socket and also some hilariously enormous jewels, gigantic diamonds and luscious rare green toned sapphires. I still don't "get" jewellery (any I have ever owned I have broken or lost), but it was great fun and now I know:

- when people try black and white pearls on, they always choose white because they are more flattering against the skin.

- Belgians are suspicious of yellow toned pearls.

- There is a grave dearth of rubies currently.

- The shop's umbrella stand is protected under listed building legislation.

All of which will doubtless stand me in good stead for upcoming conversations with public transport lunatics/my children. It looked like rather a nice job, working in a jewellers for the Belgian landed gentry, though I suppose you have to know about jewels, which rather excludes me.


A PICTURE:



The corner shop, where I can now send my children for emergency Twixes, a miracle of parenthood that shines, undiminished by the passage of time. A child who can make a cup of tea and go and fetch an emergency pint of milk (or Twix) with only minimal grumbling/bargaining is beyond rubies. And we all know how rare they are at the moment.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Happiness is a neon lobster

DOWN:

Filthy, filthy mood but I will not elaborate (there is nothing particularly enlightening to elaborate on anyway, I am just in A Mood, probably attributable to tight trousers). It would be a bit unseemly today. Enough of my puny problems.

UP:

Wednesday is the day I escort F to his terrifying Chinese lesson and then I get to sit in a bar for an hour in absolute peace. I don't bring any work unless it's madly urgent (and right now I have a frightening dearth of work, whether madly urgent or otherwise), I just .. sit. With a book and a cup of mint tea and whatever tiny sliver of cake they have decided to provide on that particular day (it's this place and I'm often the only person at 3 on a Wednesday, which is lovely). So I did that (chocolate fondant today, very good) whilst the guys from the kitchen had their late lunch or early dinner in the corner and a man on a mini digger bashed the hell out of a hole in the road in front. Even this did not bother me as I am reading Code Name Verity and it's utterly gripping. Oh! Apparently it's a young adult book. Whatever, it's brilliant.

The children have gone diving this evening after a day of loudness and forgetting stuff and sowing a trail of mess and destruction and trying to ride the Weepette like a horse, causing me to grind my molars repetitively whilst muttering under my breath. Very shortly I am going to go upstairs with a cup of tea and run a very hot bath and lie in it silently in the dark, limbs hanging uselessly by my side like a giant crocodile in a David Attenborough film. They would be ill-advised to disturb me.

After a shaky, Anthony Gormley box of smoke style start, the fire is working properly tonight and I have that lovely doomsday survivalist glow that comes from knowing there are Plenty More Where That Came From. The dog has assumed his traditional pancake position approximately on the hearth where I assume he will spend much of the next eight months.

Fishfingers and peas and oven chips for dinner, verily the apex of crap easy meals that are inhumanly delicious. All hail, Captain Birds Eye/Capitaine Igloo/whatever else he is called in other places. What do they call the genial bearded man on your fishfinger packet in your country? Or are you all panko coating your own sustainable coley fillets?

A PICTURE:



I can never see enough neon lobsters. This one is just round the corner attached to a very shabby looking restaurant I have never ventured into. I strongly suspect that if they have an actual lobster, it has been there since approx. 1994 and is a family pet. I snapped it whilst walking the dog in an early evening drenching, when it was looking very jaunty against the thunderously grey sky.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Panda scandals and horse football

DOWN

- A child has eaten the Cadbury's Caramel I hid at the back of the cupboard for a rainy day. Heads will roll.

- The Facegoop Guardian commenters included a choice selection of people who really, really hate us today. "We are polarising" said M, through clenched teeth. "I suppose that's a good thing". Then I think she was sick into her wastepaper basket. You are going to tell me not to read them, and I would love to do that, but we are supposed to 'engage'. Sometimes I feel quite robust about it, other times it makes me feel sick and sad and like never writing in public again. This was a sort of middle of the spectrum day.

- I have achieved next to nothing. Half a Brussels Guide. Nada mas.

UP

- It was a rainy and horrible morning, so I am wearing a long sleeved black Jaeger dress, WOLFORD VELVETS OH GOD YES, OPAQUES ARE BACK, ancient Pringle coat and my delicious winter scent, Frédéric Malle's Portrait of a Lady. I feel faintly guilty because it's really not that wintry and it feels like I am dancing on summer's grave, but I also feel totally, totally delighted to be back in presentable clothing. I will never learn how to dress in summer. Finally, I look like a grown up again. I had a little (damp) spring in my step.

- I went to a press conference for the Cadre Noir de Saumur today (France's finest dancing horses, I was hoping we might get a token for a free horse, but there were only some phials of tiny mints) and it was a serious affair with speeches by granite faced severe silver fox gentlemen in iconic black uniforms UNTIL it was time for questions and a ill-kempt man in his sixties with an expansive beer gut and unruly grey wispy hair in the second row put his hand up and asked the following question (in French):

"In view of the success of the national football team and our recent qualification for Rio, is it possible to train a horse to kick a football into a goal, to the accompaniment of 'We are the Champions'?"

He asked it in all seriousness (though he may just have a good poker face). The silver foxes in black dress uniform stiffened visibly and eventually one of them replied, suspiciously, that it would probably indeed be theoretically possible but they had no current plans to do so.

"It would be really popular" insisted the questioner. "Bring a little goal into the arena, get the horse to kick the ball..."

I have been laughing about this for 4 solid hours now. I love that man. He has made my day.

- A trip to Le Cirio last night was everything the Cirio should be, cosy and bathed in a warm glow of gin sozzled contentment and bookish chat. L and I had 2 gins apiece and were just starting to hitch our bosoms and tut at the loud rowdy table of Norn Irelanders opposite, when they left quite meekly, and then one of their number came back with a beer glass filled with change for the waiters, which was incredibly polite and delightful and I felt chastened to have narrowed my eyes at them.

- This is the most hilariously pretentious nightclub description ever. A door "physiognomist" instead of a bouncer. A "mindcode" not a dress code. Wild horses could not drag me to this place, which is a good thing because I'm certain I would fail the door physiognomy test.

- I have been asked to JUDGE A BAKE OFF. This is undoubtedly the pinnacle of my professional 'career' to date and I am very excited. Do I need a Zara floral bomber jacket? Should I demur if asked to describe myself as a feminist? Will a horse visit my bedside? If you are in Brussels and like making cakes, I think you should sign up so I have MORE CAKE to eat.

- Belgium is in the throes of a Panda Scandal (pandal?). My favourite wildlife park, known in these pages as "the scary bat caves" (the place with the escaping capybaras. I interviewed the man in charge here, and I believe he would be an epic panda keeper) appears to have won the right to house Belgium's pair of pandas (the Francophone press are saying it's a done deal, the Flemish aren't). The Antwerp zoo is outraged and challenging the decision. Either way, it's a big fat win for people who are amused by ludicrous public arguments over pandas, and I count myself among those people. Though, on second thoughts, surely the best solution to this problem would be for the two linguistic communities to get a panda each? It's not as if pandas seem to be particularly sociable creatures, so I doubt they would pine for one another. Then, in a moving and symbolic act of unification, the pandas could be brought together to mate, healing generations of conflict with the birth of a baby panda that would stand for peace and cooperation between Flanders and Wallonia, all crowned with unimaginable cuteness. Call me, Elio.

Photo:

Le Cirio, obviously.


What is your Tuesday verdict?

Monday, 9 September 2013

Organ tombola

DOWN:

- I have just paid the €9867,50 bill that has been hanging over me since April, although I really cannot afford to do so. Savings now further decimated. I feel a bit shaky and sick and tearful, but as M says, at least it is done and I don't have to think about it any more except to wonder which of my organs to sell first. No hairball crying yet.

- My nails have crumbled to dust again and all the nail clippers have been consumed in some nefarious child scheme. Possible options: secateurs, kitchen scissors, teeth. They all give me the shivers.

UP:

- Going out for a large gin shortly. Maybe two.

- Several shit administrative tasks done.

- I'm really tickled by the way that L comes home from school at the moment, makes himself a hot chocolate and a carefully curated plate of snacks and retires to his bed to read for 2 hours. Heredity is strong.

- New Facegoop, here on the puzzling subject of primers. Go on, give us a click, in view of DOWN, above, every click is a fraction of a penny towards me keeping both my kidneys.

PHOTO

As a result of a ludicrous piece of work nonsense I will not get into here (there is a reason I am not a photographer), I had to empty my camera today and found that L had been using it to take approximately nine thousand pictures of the garden, the rats, the floor and the dog. I like this incredibly, improbably, noble shot.


How has your Monday proceeded? Hemlock or quiet acceptance?

Sunday, 8 September 2013

My Good Mother

DOWN:

- Every biting insect in Belgium is currently living in the house, gorging themselves on us, La Grande Bouffe style. Fuckers. Both of F's feet are more weal than foot, and I am scratching like a rabid and undiginified dog. In a week or so presumably the spiders will move in with their many eyes and legs to wander across my face as I sleep. As long as they eat all the bitey things first, I am totally fine with that.

- We still haven't cleaned the rats' cage yet. As chores go, this is even worse than the sofa cover (still not done). I am tired of the sound of my own voice nagging L to get started, so I have stopped. I'm not sure what my next move is in this particular parental tussle: I mean, can you confiscate rats? Would this in any way further my interests (no)?

UP:

- I have derived near endless amusement from requiring F to sing me his new Chinese song, many times. It goes as follows:

My good mother
Returns home after work
Oh, how exhausting after a day of work
Mother, mother, quickly sit
Mother mother, quickly sit
Please have a cup of tea
Let me kiss you
Let me kiss you
My good mother

I cannot think of another song to whose sentiments I ascribe so wholeheartedly (though I have a fondness for the title of Prog Rock's oft quoted favourite "I feel like I'm fixin' to die" by Country Joe and the Fish. Whoopee, we're all going to die!). I have been accompanying him on the piano in a rousing version of it. He has now run away from me, which means I no longer have to play Uno or even worse, the dull French motoring board game "Mille Bornes" (a.k.a "mille reasons to fall out with your family").

A PHOTO:

Here is the tune to Excellent Mother Song, so you can also sing along to your mothers, or require your children to sing ceremonially to you, or if you have neither a child or a mother, you can perhaps change "mother" to an animal of your choice (I will provide you with the appropriate pinyin unless you choose something really difficult like a capybara or a naked mole rat, nb. 'koala' and 'cola' are very similar and I may get it wrong).


Now I am going to watch the preposterous but entertaining 'Luther', which I purchased on DVD just before Netflix started streaming it, chiz.

Saturdays don't count

I forgot to say that the every day thing doesn't include Saturdays, since in an effort to preserve the carefree holiday feeling, I am supposed to be unplugging the router and observing a digital sabbath, in the manner of some burnt-out tech exec returning from a sweat lodge, circa 2011. It's not wholly successful yet (as in, I end up hiding in the loo furtively checking my email), but I do like the principle. Saturdays are usually a particularly dark time for my Social Media Envy Issues, when everyone seems to have an important or moving or funny piece in a broadsheet newspaper, or to be hanging out with their friends somewhere I would sell a kidney to be, or buying wonderful stuff, whilst I am sulking around the house in an ill-fitting bra and stained t-shirt, alternately huffing about how bored I am like an overgrown teenager and wondering why there are seven packets of spring onions in various stages of decomposition in the fridge or embarking on ludicrously rigid sock or stationery organisation projects.

DOWN:

- Wood delivery. 2 hours of splintery, sweaty, bad tempered manual labour as if in some survivalist camp preparing for (nuclear) winter.


(This is only two thirds of the wood delivery) 

- Need to change ghastly (and unwisely, inexplicably white) sofa covers which have now reached the point where no one who is not a member of my family can enter the house for fear that they may see them. Changing sofa covers is like a super-charged version of changing a duvet cover and deeply unwelcome.

UP:

- No need to deal with wood for another year.


- Delicious scalding hot post-wood-heaving bath with Dead Sea salt, Aromatherapy Asssociates "Light Relax" bath oil (I love how specific they are. Mild mental relaxation, or deep muscular relaxation? Gentle stimulation or WIRE ME UP TO THE MAINS WITH ESSENTIAL OILS?) and the wrist punishingly bulky but so far very gripping Night Film.

Right, turning the router off again.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Social weaselry

DOWN:

1. I went to a shop opening party last night on my own, because it seemed like a good idea and glamorous and I was sort of hoping I'd run into people I know, but I couldn't find anyone at all in the giant, boiling hot crush of youthful, glowing, exuberant, bearded Belgian hipsters. I shuffled around for four minutes (I was wearing heels for the first time since my pre-holiday running for a tram accident, and it was agony, my ankle is obviously still buggered) pretending to be absorbed in examining things, then gave up and went home, feeling like an idiot. Feeble. I did not even manage to shove my way to the bar. On the tram home, a very elderly gentleman with no teeth was doing acrobatics in slippers and shouting. I'm not sure if that's really a 'down', but there was the constant and very real fear he might take his clothes off.

2. I have taken to calling the children "my friend" in the manner of Hercule Poirot, and cannot stop even though it is very peculiar.

3. The rats woke me up in the middle of the night tipping their house over in a very "your house is invaded by armed burglars" fashion. This, coming after a night where I had to share my bed with F who was "too hot" and thrashed repetitively all night in the manner of some giant barracuda Robson Green might catch on that Extreme Fishing programme that I have obviously never watched, because who watches fishing programmes, means that I am somewhat fatigued. Well, very fatigued. I want to crawl away and sleep in a bush. I might actually do that, but F will track me down with his new bushcraft skills. He is still renouncing all forms of electronic entertainment whilst refusing to read a book, so I have played 850 games of Uno in the last twenty four hours.

UP:

1. On arrival home after the party débâcle, I ate a Cornetto in front of Educating Yorkshire, which was a very satisfactory alternative evening. Also, on the way home I crossed the path of my very favourite Brussels character, Didier Vervaeren. DV is something big in fashion (he used to work for Delvaux, but he's now a sort of eminence noire for the Belgian creative industries) and I quite often see him at these kinds of dos (I go as often as I can, even though I usually end up creeping around the walls for five minutes then leaving. Give me another few years and I might actually talk to someone). He was wearing his habitual floor length black leather trench coat (it was 30°C) and giant stack heeled boots and looking extremely haughty, like a Belgian Karl Lagerfeld. I once went to some event where he had "curated" the buffet, which featured a sort of Day of the Dead watermelon skull lucky dip that you put your hand in to get a bracelet and since then I have had a mad platonic crush on him and his look of withering disdain (that, incidentally, was another event I turned up at, walked stiffly around for four minutes and left. Maybe I shouldn't go to these things on my own. I think I mainly hope for free stuff, or to miraculously develop a whole other personality that allows me to thrive in these circumstances).

2. I have a new relatively regular job which is in French. It is a good brain stretching thing, having to write in French and distracts me from the fact that I have no other work and no money. Here, go and look, and give us some traffic even though, unless you live in Belgium it will not be of the slightest interest.

3. I have just made lemon curd and I am going to put it into the giant three layered lemon cake I have made for absolutely no reason.


A PHOTO:



I asked L if he wanted to make his own pizza last night. He did. Yikes.

What of you, my friends? Mes amis? Tell me, while I swirl my waxed moustache.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

New broom


A new direction: I am going to try and write something every day for a little while. It may be very short, but I am sick of never getting time to come and complain about my feelings, etc. I haven't done this kind of thing for a while, because I got all self-conscious and uncomfortable about it and worried it was bad for me professionally and whatever. It is certainly not very edifying, and I have almost nothing of interest to relate, but I reason that quite like reading about other people's crap days, not because I take pleasure in people having a shit time (I hope), but for that answering echo that is such a big part of why I started reading blogs in the first place. So, if that is your bag too, do hang around.

DOWN:

1. For the last week or so, every morning when I walk the dog, I cry. They're pathetic little strangled, vomity, hairball, self-pitying sobs. I am not sure where it is all coming from. On Tuesday I kicked a tree too. Kicked a tree! What kind of 38 year-old kicks a tree? This was at least so stupid it made me laugh. Also, on one of my pathetic cry-walks, a man (possibly insane street person, unclear) told me he liked my trainers, and another man (outside the particularly scaly bar down the road) told me all about his Doberman and on a separate walk another heavily tattooed Hells Angel man told me at length about his dead dog, even taking out his wallet to show me its vast tooth which he had kept to turn into a necklace. The hardmen of Uccle do not want you to be unhappy for long.

2. My gross earnings this year to date are €19,000. Leaving aside the pressing practical questions this raises, I am sort of interested how I can do a job that I was plainly terrible at in a lackadaisical way and earn mega-dollars, then do a job I genuinely believe I am quite decent at with total commitment and earn fuck all. Obviously this is partly The State of the World, but I am conscious it is also to do with my auxiliary shitness. I am ok at the writing bit, but I do not have any of the necessary personal qualities (courage, resilience, self-belief) to survive on it. I sort of keep hoping the iron will enter my soul and the iron keeps not entering my soul, so basically I am incompetent and need to find a plan B, sharpish. Point 1 may be related to this.

3. I feel so stupid and so scared at the moment. Spending hours on something for which I get paid €50. Being too embarrassed/scared/whatever the fuck to submit my legitimate expenses. Living in a headachy fog of seventeen open Chrome windows with the attention span of a juvenile weasel, trying to think of ideas and not having any. Agonising for hours over a phone call. Also, a man from the electricity company came to the door and needed to see a bill and after five minutes of embarrassing faffing with piles of unopened envelopes I had to send him away. When he came back (I found a bill from 2010 at the bottom of a pile on the top of an unused filing cabinet), he asked if he could use a corner of the table to fill in his forms, and the corner I found had a half-eaten bagel and a plate with two used teabags on. I am nearly forty (I tell myself this a lot, so it won't come as a shock when I actually am). I do not think this is how nearly forty year olds should behave.

UP:

1. It has been a genuinely, surprisingly, beautiful summer and these first days of September have been glorious too, still properly warm but with that suspicion of a morning chill that tells you it's winding down. The dog pads outside and lies down in the small patch of sunlight (the garden is very shady) until his nose goes pink. No one needs a coat (which is good as they appear to have lost them). The evening dog walk (strangled weeping-free) in the pink streaked dusk - is balmy. Usually we (it is 'we' at the moment, unusually, because since his return from the indoctrinating forces of Hippy Science Camp, F eschews Nintendo and telly and is always up for a wholesome walk. There is also vegetarianism and Brazilian bracelets of which the less said the better) go around the streets, look at the lovely Instagram friendly neons of the ice cream parlour, skirt around the furious tiny yapping dogs the hard men in the dodgy bar have presumably told their wives they are 'walking', marvel at the queue in the chip shop. Last night, though, we went into the woods just as night was starting to fall in earnest and it was eery and adventurous. The dog disappeared, blending into the gathering grey then reappeared, panting and glad to see us. There were furtive groups of teenagers smoking joints, crows fussing as they prepared to roost and possibly a fox. We could barely see our feet. This is, briefly, one of my favourite bits of the day, before it gets cold and wet and becomes a chore again.

2. We have totally won at the rentrée. My craven need to be good at sending my children back with all necessary (and completely unnecessary) equipment, bits of paper and arbitrarily precise sums of money in envelopes does not bear close examination, but nevertheless, we smashed it, stupid plastic film for covering books and all. I do not need a medal, the warm glow of approval from authority figures is quite sufficient for me, thank you. I also have an impressive hoard of spare supplies in a drawer that I have recovered from last year's abandoned bags or found down the sides of chairs, which I go and gloat over like Golum from time to time. A lost set square holds no fear for me. This gives me a surprisingly high degree of comfort.

3. Really enjoying Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings. Such a great, beady study of a group of friends.

A PICTURE:


Bonus trip to casualty yesterday with L, who fell all the way downstairs. No broken bones, and after a day of custard doughnuts and Top Gear, recovery seems on course.  

Enough. I am going to kick a tree.