Thursday, 30 January 2014


I had a plan when I gaily declared I would write a whole post without complaining today, but the planned thing isn't turning out quite as funny as I'd hoped, and requires more work/inspiration, so I am thrown back on old fashioned SUCKING IT UP and turning everything into sparkling unicorn rainbows (actually, today was fine).

Things that have happened today with a positive spin:

- I had the most heavenly cup of tea half an hour ago. You know (or you don't, because you are not British, but trust me on this), the cup of tea that just hits the spot with pinpoint accuracy. BOOM. Oh man. Platonic tea.

- Kacy, the politest horse in Belgium, was lying down when I went to see her this lunchtime and she looked enormously sweet, tucked up in her rug. She is also the softest, most conker shiny horse I have ever met.

- I managed not to go to a 90 minute school meeting that apparently largely revolved around the thorny issue of The Maths Exam That Did Not In Every Particular Resemble The Revision List Distributed. This has been the subject of a lengthy and ill-humoured email string (in which I took no part other than scrolling through with increasing incredulity) already. I didn't avoid the meeting - which was supposed to be about something entirely different - deliberately, but my heart is intensely glad that I missed it.

- Good dinner (artichoke and broad bean lasagne, did the children eat that, I hear you ask? Hahahahaha did they fuck).

- Trip to Chinese with smallest is always very jolly. We take a tram and then a metro and then we walk down the scuzzy Chaussée d'Ixelles and there are SHOPS and PEOPLE. Then, while F is drilled on characters, I wander the streets, or sit in a cafe and drink something nice and look at the people and the shops. It's total sensory overload after a week in Uccle looking at pigeons and mud and occasionally walking down the end of the road and looking at the 1950s shop full of flesh coloured support garments for ladies. F is preparing for "EXAMEN INTERNATIONAL!" as his teacher calls it, which is in Ghent in March and both of them are taking it extremely seriously. So I pick him up and listen for five minutes as they go over the seven hundred variation of zhe and nar and then we leave and the sky is deep, deep blue and it's not especially cold and we stop off in ZigZag, F's favourite shop full of hideous €1 tat, then we stop off in the chip shop, then we go home and the fire is still alight and L has returned safely from his solo trip to guitar (this is new and terrifying and punctuated with laconic-stroke-mocking text messages from him at my feverish anxiety) and the Roomba has not ingested anything critical.

- Following Eireann's example, I'm going to add a page of stuff I've been reading on here. Even if it's only Scandinavian murders.

- This, near us, looks like good, good news:

- I have started Penelope Lively's memoir (£1 in the amazing Kindle sale earlier this month) and it is lovely.

Feel free to add either lovely things or complaints to redress the balance of the universe in the comments.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

But what of the head?

Yeah, I don't really know what's been happening recently, but it's been quite grim. Last week: Monday-Wednesday heavy ennui-slash-despair-slash-anxiety, Thursday demented running around, then Friday, demob happy staring into space. Weekend - tense, paying for Friday's lack of productivity. This week: Monday - AWFUL. But yesterday's activities were cancelled, so I feel reborn. A whole bonus day! One I didn't expect! Ideally I would have got around to finishing  this post, but I didn't, entirely and am having to edit it to reflect this now, sigh.

I'll stick to the now-traditional format for when I am confused and out of practice.


- I told one employer I could only do one piece a week and not two recently, thinking it would free me up to pitch for exciting new work. Um, yeah. So far I have just sunk into a decline, believing myself to be incapable of getting new work, ever. Idiot. I mean, I still the think the principle is right, but I need a kick up the arse to actually put it into effect. OH GOD, I WILL NEVER HAVE ANY MONEY, is my main thought currently. I'd say it recurs about 28-43 times on an average day, then on Fridays and Saturdays I hush it with wine and really shit telly. This is working out really well for me. (no, it isn't, things are bad).

- I am trying to stretch a slightly too small pair of Repettos by wearing them for a couple of hours a day and the pain in my right big toe is ungodly.

- I've just heard the Eurostar restaurant reviews are being cut to 100 words, which basically gives me space to say "I went here, it was good".

- I have been trying to lose a tiny amount of weight in a sensible eating, non-psychotic way and it is awful and a misery and by 4pm every day I am ready to kill everyone and devour live puppies. I had forgotten how appallingly I react to low blood sugar (how I wasn't arrested when I had an eating disorder is a mystery). I think for everyone's sake, I should just resign myself to a life of more assertive support underpinnings and more biscuits. Presumably if I were to persist, I could struggle through to a new, lean, clean, clarity without my sugar crutch, but the chances are I would commit aggravated assault in the process. The greatest utility of the greatest number is not served by me being thinner, I conclude. Stubbornness, however, is setting in and I find I do not want to admit defeat.

- I have a new dickhead neighbour who sits right by my ear (or so it feels), playing 80s cock rock and free jazz and I am about ready to murder him (see above, re. murderous thoughts).


- The kid who had a bad last report did really well in his exams, so everyone is lightheaded with off-the-hook-ness. None of us wants to be trudging through more part participle agreements when we could be watching eg. "Splash" (D list celebs hurt themselves learning to dive) or the very promising sounding but appalling in execution "The Jump" (D list celebs hurt themselves catastrophically learning to ski jump). Also, a brief aside: THE OUTFITS IN THE JUMP. I am actually speechless. Never in the history of human endeavour has such unflattering clothing been worn by so many. They look like a collection of neoprene coated barrels, decorated by a whimsical toddler with access to Christian Lacroix's stock room.

- The thick January brainfog is definitely lifting. I only want to curl up in the dark and lull myself into fur and cashmere lined oblivion for 14 hours of the day now, not 24.

- I HAVE DECLARED MY ID CARD LOST AFTER 13 MONTHS. I have tortured myself pointlessly with this piece of admin for approximately 390 days. This morning I finally went and did the deed: 10 minutes in the police station, everyone perfectly polite, then 10 minutes at the town hall, €20, everyone also perfectly polite. I can't pretend I'll learn my lesson as a result of this, because I won't. I have also lost my driving licence but some horrible force - embarrassment, I think - stopped me from asking for a declaration that that was lost too, which is so stupid, and just means I will have to go through the whole rigamarole again, presumably for another year or so. Hang on, that's a 'down'.

- I have found great comfort and fascination recently in both Slipstream (the Elizabeth Jane Howard memoir), which is full of self-doubt and bleak patches and in this interview with Joanna Scanlan, who is a most wonderful actress, but who I discover today spent over a decade in total career wilderness. It's not the 'look, there's always hope' part that fascinates me so much as reading women talking with total frankness about being properly, grindingly miserable from time to time. I don't know quite why that's so comforting, but it is. Also, wow, Kingsley Amis does not come out of Slipstream covered in glory.

- As I type, F is drawing me a diagram and giving me a highly detailed description of how to dissect/taxidermy a mouse and it keeps making me laugh.

A photo:

He is unsure what to do with the head, as you can see. Any elucidation very welcome.

Tomorrow I pledge to write a post without a word of complaint, so that's something for us all to look forward to.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Mutter, mutter


Ecover "Festive Cookie" scented washing up liquid (free, I would not deliberately buy such a thing) is not at ALL festive. It is vile.

Foul mood, half weeping, half self-loathing with trace elements of muttered 'I hate everyone' (present company excepted). I can only assume hormonal + the meaningless construct that is blue Monday + endless night/rain/murk + hugely ill-advised attempt at "healthy eating", after seeing some truly foul and unflattering pictures of my jowls and dry porridge face at the weekend. Jesus, I must never restrict my food intake, I become truly psychotic.

Children quite naughty this evening, especially during an idiotic stand off over sofa seating. I have not come out of this with much dignity or authority, especially during this part:

Me: Just move, will you.

L: Why should I? I'm sitting here now.

Me: You nicked his seat!

L: It's my seat now.

Me: Yes, well, that's not how civilised people behave with sofas (wow, great line, me. Sizzling repartee).

L: .... ('whatever, bish' face)

Me: L, you've got 30 seconds to move, or you're going to your room.

Nothing happens. 20 seconds pass as I sit looking pointedly at my watch. 

L: How long have I got left?

Me: (disconcerted) 5 seconds.

L waits another 3 seconds then shifts a slow, deliberate, grudging 20 cm. 

Me (impotently): Oh, very bloody clever.

Storms into kitchen to bang some pans. Is ignored by everyone. 

Oh yes, this was good. Woke up this morning covered in brown stains. Moment of terror, followed by the realisation that I had SLEPT ON A CHOCOLATE SQUARE. Have had to change the bed, most loathed of tasks. Also, who sleeps on a chocolate square and doesn't realise? This is no princess and the pea scenario.


I have made a nice fire and none of the neighbours has called the fire brigade this time.

A single optimistic snowdrop out in the garden.

Have not actually killed anyone.

We have managed to extricate the chewed up dog shit bag that has been blocking the washing machine for three weeks and it is working again, praise the Lord.

It is my settled intention to be in bed with a hot water bottle, my Elizabeth Jane Howard memoir (the Cazalet chronicles are basically factual, it transpires!) and NO chocolate squares in the next twenty minutes.

Oh, did you see the latest Facegoop? It's about our LEAST favourite beauty products. Highly therapeutic and a good comments thread, full of shared product loathing and relatively few people asking "did you get paid for this" (answer = no, but we got paid because you clicked on it, so ha ha ha).

A picture:

I came downstairs on Sunday morning to find that L had dressed the dog up as ... what? Someone from Geordie Shore? A World's Strongest Man candidate? God knows. Oddly enough, Weepette seemed totally fine about it, viewing the whole thing with far more composure than he views, eg, the opening of a cardboard box, or someone uttering the word "Right!". Peculiar beast.

Your Blue Monday verdict? 

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Things my children have asked for today

... my children who clearly haven't read this article.

Galler 70% lime and mint chocolate.

Hunger Games 3.

Gold lamé wings for Converse hi-tops.

Or snakeskin ones.

Or black, as if it were only the colour holding me back.

Some kind of lemon essential oil from the hippy shop.

A purple suede modular chair.

Fortune cookies.

A folder "with the spiky metal bits".

A wedding ring with a black opal set in it.

Ultra-hold hair gel.

A cup of civet pooed coffee (€9, neither of them drink coffee, of course).

"A Chinese newspaper".

A pencil sharpener with a squirrel in a dome, so it looks like the squirrel is surrounded by the fruits of its own tree chewing (query: surely this should be a beaver?)

"Some more weird flavoured crisps" (octopus, disgusting, no way, I had to eat them last time)

A praline waffle

"Another card trick. It's not dear".

A can of violently apple flavored water.

"One of those" (a durian)

A life-sized black plastic horse with a lamp shade on its head.

He hasn't even been on the Firebox site today

(We got the chocolate)

Friday, 17 January 2014

My turning 40 style rules

Everyone who is anyone is turning forty this year. Kate Moss. Chloé Sevigny. Eva Mendes. Amy Adams. Penelope Cruz. Victoria Beckham. And me. I got all of those except La Moss (and myself) from this joyless article about the abundant new possibilities of 40+ style. One may "consider colour"! It may not be essential to "cover up"! However, do not have a blunt fringe because it will accentuate your jowls. Seriously, don't.

 (Jowls. That bit resonates).

Anyway, I thought it would be an opportune moment, between bouts of cold terror at my own galloping mortality and burning jags of jowl shame, to present you with my own, carefully curated, style rules. These are the fruits of 39+ years of uncompromising commitment to... well. To cake and sleeping and warmth and long books. To avoiding exercise. To self-acceptance in all my jowled glory.

1. Take a view on ladders
I don't wish to be prescriptive here, but you need to decide how comfortable you are with the ladder issue. My own view is, if I can't see it, it doesn't exist, thus ladders to the rear of hosiery, or holes in toes: fine. My mother, also a style icon in her day, took a different view and would colour in visible runs and holes with a black marker pen. An experiment with superimposing two pairs of differently laddered tights was not successful, but might merit another attempt.

2. Buy a slightly larger pair of trousers
I bought a slightly too large pair of trousers at new year, because they were £10 and I was in a rush and they were comfy. What a bloody brilliant decision. Nothing, but nothing, has improved my mood like these trousers. They are PROZACTROUSERS. Despite over-eating solidly for 4 weeks, disdaining dry January and composing whole meals from small puff pastry canapés, I only have to put the trousers on to feel delightfully slim.

3. Fuck matching socks
Any time spent trying to match varying gradations/ages/lengths of black sock is time that would be more usefully spent doing almost anything else.  No one is ever going to look that closely at your legs, especially if you are wearing black ankle socks. Read Stendhal. Have phone sex. Pet a capybara. Make Felicity Cloake's Perfect Lemon Drizzle Cake. NO ONE CAN TELL.

4. Embrace the sack
The close correlation between mood and waist constriction has been the subject of literally no studies. However, I can and do assert this link exists. Too tight belt/skirt/waistband = urge to murder by 11am. Cos sac dress = beatific sense of wellbeing. You know it makes sense.

5. Be selective with stains
After a certain age, one must exercise some discretion with stains. A light dusting of avocado around a cuff, fine. A discreet spot of grease on a trouser leg, perfectly acceptable. Both together = edging towards full hobo.

6. The very best accessory is a striking dog
Most dogs come in flattering, warm, go-with-everything neutrals. Also, once you have a dog, no one will look at you again, except as a sort of adjunct to your pet. This is very comforting.

7. Dress for the life you want, not the life you have
My main aim for my middle and later years is to become one of those defiant Englishwomen whose best, indeed only, friend is a halitotic labrador. You know, the type who wear straw in their hair and keep horses in their kitchens and a half bottle of gin and twenty Rothmans in every pocket of their fetid waxed jackets. To this end, I am amassing a collection of old navy blue jumpers, slightly foxed padded waistcoats and sensible boots. Eyes on the prize.

What are your mid-life style rules?

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

My village was ransacked by Sakri


The end of the children's exams cannot come soon enough. There were ugly scenes tonight regarding the human circulatory system. The word "aorta" can never be uttered in our household again, I fear.

Spent much of the morning trying to deal with the washing machine's latest fit of temper, knee deep in a tepid bog, marvelling at the sheer quantity of water it can contain, like an extremely dull Lady Macbeth.

Over-enthusiastic baby dog in park jumped up spreading mud all over my only decent coat (lovely Maje parka). Yes, don't wear a nice coat to the park, I know, I know. Shut up. My head was turned by the prospect of not looking like a despondent flasher for once.

Continued multiple administrative failures.

Had to turn down a visit to a chocolate maker's workshop.

Weirdly intense anxiety about what should be really quite a manageable task.

Prey to the sin of envy to a significant degree.

Hips have seized up after ill-advised dancing to 1980s ska classics in heels at a wedding this weekend. Can no longer bend down without guttural, rasping, resentful groan, in the manner of the camels of Petra.

Some child has hijacked my phone so that it no longer gives me any useful information or connects to email, but only sends me cryptic messages like "your village was ransacked by Sakri!". I have shouted.


Delicious free lunch and reviewing a nice hotel tonight (clean sheets, plump pillows, tiny shower gels, one of those tiny Polly Pocket kettles with eccentrically flavoured teabags and, unlike my own gracious home, a functioning bath).

F said nice things about the ghastly book proposal. I don't believe her, obviously, but it's better than an awkward silence because she couldn't think of anything at all to say.

Attended jolly event with champagne and tiny snacks and people to stare at tonight at which, unlike last Thursday's jolly event with champagne and tiny snacks, I was NOT the one who dropped 7 canapés on an elegant man's foot.

May be slightly drunk, but this has significantly attenuated my anxiety about the manageable task (oh god, tomorrow is going to be dreadful, isn't it).

A picture:

Is this a (i) date (ii) interview (iii) the start of an ugly fist fight or (iv) other (please state in full)?

Monday, 13 January 2014



What have I achieved today, I start asking myself, unhelpfully, as the evening draws in and the wolves whippet Roomba children circle hungrily, sensing bacon dust weakness.

Well! I say to myself with considerably less enthusiasm than that exclamation mark implies.

After the protracted business of waking up and nipping at the children's heels like an overzealous collie until they finally left the house ("please go now" you started pleading at 8:20 as one of them languorously, dreamily, laced his first shoe "it's nearly time for you to come home already, I'm begging you"), you walked the dog (discussion with dippy dog walking woman about 'giving yourself permission to say no'), and had a brief burst of productivity.

Then it tailed off, you grumbled gently with M and ate three chocolate biscuits, whilst realising this was going to be your only full day of work until Friday, so you should really get a move on.

Later you got two aggravating emails and became pointlessly enraged.

You calmed down by looking at Elle Belgique and wondering who on earth would want to learn how to make, or eat, spirulina mayonnaise.

Around about midday, you got sidetracked for twenty minutes by feeling sorry for sugar. Poor sugar, so delicious and so relentlessly vilified this month. You're still feeling quite bad for sugar, actually. You wondered if you should write a defence of sugar. You didn't, but spent enough time considering it that you will feel irrationally aggrieved when someone else writes one.

The afternoon crawled by in the habitual hunchbacked semi-stupor, during which you wrote half a Brussels guide and one pitch and continued slowly and reluctantly with another long-standing, arguably long overdue exercise to which you feel you have little to contribute. You had lunch at 3pm because you are stupid, and also because of the late morning biscuits and wondered whether you should give up various jobs due to your own incompetence.

At 4:15 pm you had four squares of Malteser "Teaser" to cover the scent of the contraband half cigarette you smoked during your earlier fit of rage. Well, that was your internal rationale, anyway, in defiance of any kind of basic sense.

You endured a mutually painful half hour of Dutch revision with L with only minor outbreaks of irritation on either side.

Later, you just about kept a shred of dignity in an ill-humoured and stupid fight about Minecraft, but your nine year old was probably on balance more noble, since he made a sincere and touching apology.


- insufficient work completed.

- did not remove giant length of rope from Roomba's intestines, but simply turned it upside down and hid it in a cupboard.

- Only managed 4 of 5 a day.

- Did not do the washing.

- Did not find child's vaccination records for school trip health form.

- Appalling posture all day.

- 22:30 23:14, still on computer and half-heartedly wondering whether can face more work.

- Did not further the cause of humanity, etc.


- No excessive shouting.

- Walked dog. Twice. Minimal hissing of "come on!"

- Threw away 12 ancient apples and accompanying crops of penicillin.

- Played with bored rat to compensate for neglectful older child.

- May now understand the proper usage of staan, zitten, hangen  and liggen. Possibly.

- Remembered to buy tinfoil whilst doing the shopping in the incredibly grim supermarket round the corner and also, did not give in to queue despair and curl up in a foetal ball under the display of cheap cigarillos at the till, despite extreme temptation.

- Discovered the Stock Finds twitter account, a great comfort when you spend any amount of time searching for stock images. Tongue lemon rubber glove is my favourite, I think.

(Oh dear. I thought this would be funny but it's just ended up depressing. Tomorrow, maybe spy nautilus, or capybaras or my weekend wedding dancing injury or SOMETHING, anything but more of the same)

How was your Monday?

Friday, 10 January 2014

Stuff that DID let me down in 2013

Back to what I do best: the low mumble of complaint into the ether.

1. BPost
This is a blog post not an episode of consumer snore-fest 'You and Yours' so I will keep this brief. The Belgian postal service is utter, utter shite. The end.

2. Boots
Boots should be one of the simple, reliable pleasures of life, no? Toasty warm sturdy foot containers, with a touch of style? Yes, well, this year they were a tedious nightmare. I waited 6 weeks for a Topshop pair (choice of model copied from M, yes, I am the friend that copies your boots, albeit in a different colour, I am that kind of scum) to be delivered (see also (1) BPost and (4) online shopping). They were perfect but disintegrated in 4 months and have proved impossible to replace (M and I have spent hours of aimless gchat comparing cheap boots online to absolutely no avail). Walked around with a large stone wedged in broken heel of Topshop pair whilst I ordered another (probably crap) pair that got lost in the post. Got another pair for birthday. Zip broke within a month. Ordered yet another pair: turn out me a disturbingly pale beige colour, make me look like Billy Ray Cyrus and smell alarmingly of rubber. Wearing them anyway because I no longer care. Footwear has broken me. Maybe I can style out the beige suede cowboy boots somehow! (I can't).

3. Roomba
I fell dramatically out of love with the Roomba this year, like the fickle, shallow bastard I am. I know he's only doing his best, bustling around disposing of household mank, but I am heartily sick of him circling menacingly around my chair as I try and work, bashing into the legs and whirring with an insistent note of martyrdom. Other things I am sick of: retrieving my phone charger cable from his intestines. Untangling him from the rug tassels. Chasing him around the corridor as he chews up a shoelace, simultaneously banging himself in the face with the attached shoe. Roomba is an idiot. I am sticking to dust in 2014.

4. Online shopping
Too small grass flipflops, lost boots, meteorite necklace Christmas present that broke on the 27th, missing plush stomach ache and sonic screwdriver, replacement promised "by urgent courier"on 24th and sent by normal post on 27th. Worst than all of these, that ghastly phenomenon, whereby you look at something in all innocence - some vile Whistles leather dungarees, perhaps, via a link sent to you AS A JOKE - and the garment then stalks you round the Internet, appearing like a hideous apparition in the corner of any piece of research or therapeutic baby animal staring you may be engaged in. Last year online shopping lost its lustre for me. In 2014 I am saying goodbye to being stalked around the Internet by Marks & Spencer control tights: I am going back to actual shops. Or better still, I am going nowhere and buying nothing, because:

5. The economy
Papa Waffle is right, writing articles for €50 is a mug's game. Sadly, it is the only game I seem to be half competent at.

6. Eye cream
I love all manner of cosmetic snake oils, but holy shit, this stuff is pointless. I have been doing a comparative test of a very dear and a very cheap one for about two months. THEY ARE BOTH AWFUL. Actually, your eyes are like mine, they are an actual health hazard. I'd rather have sagging, grey-purpleish eyelids than these spotty, bright red, puffy, itchy ones, thanks. Say no to eye cream.

7. Confidence
If I started to list the dickish things I have done and not done due to a total failure of confidence this year, you would be first pitying, then disdainful, and you would be right. Why can't you just buy confidence (in a real shop, not online, obviously)? Latterly as I tried to rewrite my book proposal over the last couple of weeks I had to keep saying to myself 'shitter books than this have been published in the history of the written word' over and over again to stop myself just burning it all. This is as close to a positive affirmation as I get. I sent the fucking thing off today. Whoop!

8. Verruca treatments
The glamour. These are all shit, including the dermatologist administered ones, and we tried the gaffer tape thing and the gaffer tape just fell off. We start this year with the same quotient of medieval peasant skin diseases as last year, just many euros poorer. Marvellous. Maybe I'll apply a toad to the affected area. Then bury myself in the woods at midnight.

What inanimate object/good or service or abstract concept fell over and broke, annoyed the hell out of you or otherwise cruelly let you down this year? 

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Enormously stupid conversations of the day

1. I need a diagram

E: Oh dear. I just looked up the name of the fish I ate last night in English, which was called a "Sole Cardine" on the menu: "The megrim or whiff is a species of left-eyed Flatfish found in European seas", it says. "Left eyed flatfish"? "Whiff?" THESE ARE NOT GOOD WORDS FOR A RESTAURANT REVIEW.

M: Ahahhahahhahahahah, megrim.

E: What the fuck does "left eyed" mean. Doesn't it depend which way you look at the megrim or whiff?

M: Maybe he is one of those flat fish with just one eye on the side. His left eye.

E: Maybe. Who has decided it is his LEFT eye though? Isn't this a matter of perspective?

M: o -  -  -  <  The eye is there. On the left.

E: What on earth is THAT? I am collapsing in fish hysteria. I NEED A DIAGRAM.

M: A photo, you mean. Google him.

E: See?? If he was facing the other way, surely he would be a right eyed whiff.

M: .....

2. Father is in the cellar

E: Fucking Wednesday. It's always Wednesday. This afternoon = 45 Dutch phrases to revise. The only one I like is "father is in the cellar".

F: That's a good one.

E: Father has the right idea.

F: How do you say it?

E: Vader zit in de kelder, I think.

F: Or, you know, it's a confession.

E: YES. I think you're right.

F: Evil blonde child comes clean. Mother, on the other hand, is in the trunk (or boot as you say). Mother is cut up in tiny pieces and strewn in the canal. "MOTHER IS INSIDE ME. SHE TELLS ME THINGS".

E: "Moeder wordt gesneden in kleine stukjes en bezaaid in het kanaal."

F: God, it sounds so scary in Dutch. I bet Moeder is a right bitch. No wonder Vader's in the basement. Who can blame him. He's got his cider press down there, his cuckoo clocks that he builds.

E: His … mice? Tulips?

F: Windmills. Miniature windmills.

3. A Steve Jobs lizard would totally meditate

M: I keep on hearing good things about meditation. Maybe I should try it. When, va savoir. I barely have time to wash. 

E: Hmm, I know exactly what would happen if I did meditation. I would end up trapped in a cycle of repetitive thoughts about DEATH. 

M: I think you are supposed to not think about anything. Which is restful. Similar to when I am dancing, I think. It might be good.

E:  Yes. I get the principle. But my lizard brain would not agree. 

M: Ha. The existentialist lizard brain. 

E: Yup. In its black roll neck. Lizard in a polo neck. 

M: No no no. You are describing a Steve Jobs lizard. A Steve Jobs lizard would totally meditate. 

E: No, I was trying for a Sartre lizard! Maybe a lizard could wear a De Beauvoir style turban? No. Google Images has failed me on this. Hmm, this is the closest, but I prefer this

M: .....

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Things that did not let me down in 2013

(I have no relevant pictures for this post, so this is a "Wasp of the Future", courtesy of L today. It was that or him with a rat on a lead, and I thought on balance this was probably less disturbing)

1. My printer
Obviously, by writing this, I have now ensured that it will chew up a ream of paper, catch fire and burn the house down within the next week. But! It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone hates their printer, for they are Satan's office supplies, capricious, ink gobbling sadists, infinitely sensitive to time critical tasks. My printer, however, is a brick (in the Angela Brazil, rather than the masonry, sense). Purchased (cheaply) in 2010, it has been the most reliable workhorse imaginable ever since. Apart from its slightly snobbish disdain for generic cartridges, its behaviour is irreproachable. Thank you, printer. (it's an HP Photosmart, if you're tempted to enter into a psychically damaging, co-dependent relationship with a black box). I anticipate your imminent demise with a heavy heart.

2. The tumble dryer
It's really bad to have a tumble dryer isn't it? Well, I assume it is. Anyway. Say farewell to the scent of mildew on your crunchy, hard towels, and say hello to the most satisfying household task in existence, the emptying of the lint filter on a tumble dryer. No sensual pleasure comes close to lovingly removing the lint from the filter in satisfying sheets (what? I am a dried up husk of a woman and I get my kicks where I can, including from lint). My tumble dryer has tumbled a mountain of clothes to toasty warmth in the past year and I have the Electrabel top-up bill to prove it. I am unrepentant. Well, I am sorry for the polar bears, who, based on the numerous documentaries I have watched about them in recent years, appear to lead a brutish, short and relentlessly grim existence made worse by disappearing ice. Who'd be a polar bear? Not me. If I were a polar bear, a 'lone male' would have eaten me shortly after birth, I imagine. (This reminds me we must discuss that ludicrous "animal shaped spybots spy on dolphins with hilarious consequences" programme)

3. Oromovicza Illuminating Moisturiser
I got this for free, and I cannot afford to replace it. If, however, your skin is dryish and sensitive and you are in the fortunate position of not being €500 overdrawn and willing to pay top dollar for snake oil, I recommend this nonsensically named Hungarian potion with all my heart. Contains "ruby crystal", whatever that might be (perhaps rubies, given the price). Costs one hundred and twenty of your finest euros. Has the distinction of being the only moisturiser good enough that I can actually be arsed to use it every day, despite me supposedly being a beauty blogger. Over the past two weeks in my ancestral lands I was buffeted by wind, rain, booze and cheap chocolate. I did not use cleanser once, the only liquids I consumed were tea, gin and wine and on one occasion I resorted to lip balm to remove my eye make up. Nevertheless my skin is clear and plump as a seal and the ONLY thing I used on it was this stuff.

4. Kindle
Damn, I love my Kindle, that battered, ugly little rectangle of wonder. Did you see the 99p sale yesterday? I bought TEN BOOKS, despite the €500 overdrawn thing, including The Luminaries, newish Ian Rankin, Zadie Smith Cambodia thingy, Julian Barnes memoir, Penelope Lively memoir, etc etc etc. Ten books for ten pounds! For amazing literature! No wonder Papa Waffle was so insistently trying to convince me that my dream career is a mug's game over Christmas (his suggestions: (i) I take up corporate tweeting "like your cousin Neil"; or (ii) I pitch features about him to Saga magazine, famously one of the only publications that still pays £1 a word, but I digress).

5. Yorkshire Gold teabags
I had a sad few months last year where, having bought a gigantic box of normal Yorkshire teabags, I was forced to use them all up. I will NEVER make that mistake again. Your morning tea should be a joy, not a sour, dusty disappointment. I will never stray from the Golden path of righteousness again.

6. Having a shit ugly wallet
2013 was the first year in living memory during which I did not lose a wallet. Since having the previous one nicked in December 2012 (hai, still unreplaced cards and vital documents), I have been using an ugly, biro stained, pale green coin purse with all my cards, money and important documents scrumpled up in it. This monstrosity has, predictably, proved completely unlosable. Unfortunately, I have just been given a beautiful, green fluo Comme des Garçons wallet for Christmas (to replace a cherished, less fluo but still green CdG wallet I lost circa 2007), so I am doomed. I still have ugly pale green purse though, so at least I know what to fall back on.

7. Cheese. On toast
I am not a massive cheese person, but since this shop opened, practically at the end of our street, I have been somewhat converted. I still only like approximately 3 kinds of cheese, but now I have a smart and aspirational shop in which to look suspiciously at the rotten milk products, and the three kinds I eat are in consequence superlatively delicious. Also the owner, who is a terrifyingly intense cheese maniac with a thousand yard stare (presumably dreaming of Tomme d'Ambert or something), wears a giant beret at the weekends, which is a great comedy bonus. Cheese on toast has continued to delight me on approximately 4 lunchtimes out of 7 a week this year. "Cheese never lets you down" says M, somewhat wistfully as she is about to embark on a 12 day detox for Facegoop, and she is right.

Return soon for the follow up on the things that DID let me down in 2013.

What didn't let you down in 2013, or are you scared to say and tempt fate? 

Monday, 6 January 2014

I read myself into a decline

Night falls on North Yorkshire, at approximately 3:45 pm. Soon, the wolves will start to gather.

I have twenty five minutes before I can justifiably throw the children into their pits, snarling and scratching at their bars. You can have them. The minutes, not the children. Well, maybe you can have them too, what with the Top Gear marathon and the precisely pitched shrieks of outrage and the losing of all key possessions and the endless, endless fighting, god, the fighting. Hello! Happy new year.

(interruption to exclaim insincerely over the imperceptible-to-me joys of 'Marvellous Maths')

So, the holidays. We went away for two whole weeks and, apart from repeatedly having to try and placate a distant, content hungry and imperious Content Management System, I spent the whole time disconnected entirely from, well, my brain. In York we sat around in a bovine fashion waiting for Prog Rock to shovel more food into us, as already catalogued here. Then we went to the Dales for a week, where it was dark by four each afternoon and profoundly rainy. Every day we would walk up something boggy and punishingly inhospitable in the morning, eat something involving chips in a pub, then settle in back home for long, delicious afternoons of intensely languorous hygge. Sometimes we sat in front of the fire and watched terrible films, sometimes we played cards; more often I crept away for a long, boiling hot Radox bath, followed by an almost accidental detour to bed, to crawl under the patchwork quilt from my childhood, as familiar (and as worn and ragged) as my own skin. The stream behind the house roared and raged with peaty, fast run off, and the wind was high, but in my bed, everything was warm and heavy and there was usually half a stolen Chocolate Orange and a pint of tea on the bedside table and the ever-present possibility of a small nap. Mmmm, so hygge.

(interruption to mediate in a fight about a microscopically small and hitherto unloved pot of blue paint)

My reading matter, however, was anything but cosy. In order of reading:

Scissors, Paper, Stone - Elizabeth Day
God, this was grim. A sad, tight, claustrophobic tale of a small, unhappy family. Very well done, skin-creepingly tense, some redemption at the end, but left me quite unsettled. Brrr.

Toast, Nigel Slater
I know this lovely, poetic and rather waspishly funny memoir is a paean to the sensual delights of food and full of precise, delicious, affectionate descriptions of 1970s gastro-dubious treats, but what stays with you when the Angel Delight fades is the story of a small boy losing his mother and living a cold and confusing life leached of any affection or warmth.

The Killer Next Door, Alex Marwood
Drains blocked with rendered person fat. Mummification. Excrement everywhere. Unpleasant scenes of a sexual nature. Genuinely quite revolting (but also gripping).

Maggie and Me, Damian Barr
A really lyrical, sharp, deliciously readable prose style doesn't stop this being a terribly sad story (at least in parts, it's not all misery and in parts it's very funny) about a wee boy, brutalised by his foul stepfather and leading a shitty, confusing, hand to mouth, existence in 1980s Lanarkshire.

Burial Rites, Hannah Kent
OH MY GOD THIS BOOK. I absolutely adored this, it was perfect for the long, dark afternoons with the wind whistling around the stoic sheep of Coverdale. It is, however, an unremittingly bleak tale about a real life 19th century Icelandic murder drama. Beautiful, evocative and BLEAK AS HELL. 19th century Iceland: not a tourist destination. I was fully harrowed at the end. So harrowed.

The Thora Gudmundsdottir novels by Yrsa Siguroardottir
On the recommendation of someone here (for which many thanks, I treasure and follow up all of your book tips and they are almost always bang on), I read three of these, because, despite (i) dismemberments (ii) eyeball removal (iii) a rich catalogue of human misery and dysfunction, they constituted light relief after the forgoing.

Would I recommend? Well. They were all good, no question, but is this really what you need in January? With the overdraft and the new chins and the constant viruses and the endless night? I'm going back to PG Wodehouse, smartish. Maybe even the Pullein-Thompson sisters.

What did you read over the holidays? Would you recommend for surfing the waves of despair of a dreich January?