Friday, 28 February 2014

Home alone

I was totally right about the coat lining, I put it straight back in the next morning, whispering fervent, heartfelt apologies to the gods. There has been unrelenting icy rain all day. I have broken Belgium, it will be like Narnia here soon, all Turkish Delight and fauns and allegories and DEATH.


Unrelenting icy rain.

Poor productivity today currently standing at 2/3 of one dreadful article about running, zzzzz, with no hope of further progress due to wine and intense Friday indolence.

Nagging anxiety (squared up to shitty work thing, but have not heard back - did I email the wrong person? Possibly. Do I dare check my sent items? Hellnoes).

Accidentally dropped a log on the dog (he's fine).

Director of Rat Entertainment for the week in L's absence, a heavy burden. So far I have offered my charge a new cardboard box, he seems unmoved.

Has Russia invaded Ukraine? How worried should we all be on a scale from bof to CONVENIENCE MARRY A SWISS PERSON INSTANTLY FOR A BUNKER SPACE?


Everyone is away skiing (freaks) and I have no plans to go anywhere or do anything except read books, drink tea and wine, watch House of Cards (I am on ep 6 series 2 and not finding it very engaging at all - does it improve? They are talking about vertical integration in the energy sector! If I wanted to listen to that kind of shit I would have stayed in competition law) and have long, languorous baths; possibly all at once. By Wednesday I will be lonely, missing the boys and semi-insane, but these first couple of days will be dizzyingly wonderful.

Finally - finally! - I have boot success, of a sort. They are these from Marks & Spencer and are cheap-ish and comfortable and who exactly am I, because the person I used to be did not consider those criteria to be worthy of ANY consideration in shoe selection. You may be reassured to hear I am not "teaming" them "with a floral dress" as per the serving suggestions on the website. I am teaming them with slightly too small jeans unzipped to accommodate my post-dinner stomach, a bobbly grey sweater and a pet rat, and they are doing just fine. M and I both consider 'western cut' boots give you sausage limbs, but beggars cannot be choosers.

Rabbit rillettes

Red wine

Fire lit

Indian takeaway ordered - it will be so-so and make me pine for Tayyabs juicy juicy lamb chops, but it is better than no Indian food at all*.

(*Post-takeaway postscript: pleasant enough, but literally NO flavour at all. None. How do you even do that with Indian food? I am going to have to resort to DIY daal making this week, I can tell).

A picture

Rats are shit at selfies.

What delights does your weekend hold? Will you be speaking to other humans or like me, wandering around your house in ill-fitting leisure wear, occasionally treating pieces of furniture to dramatic monologues?

Wednesday, 26 February 2014


If a vicious wave of cold hits Northern Europe this week, it is because I have prematurely removed the furry lining from my parka, not heeding the proverbial recommendations about casting of clouts/découvre-ing fils too early. Sorry about that.


My legs have just given up, after yesterday's shoe punishment. They are angry, unyielding sausages of wrath even though I have surrendered them to the forgiving embrace of M&S comfort soles. Nothing makes me feel more decrepit than my recent enforced acceptance that I can no longer cope with a vicious heel.

I am eating like a pig.

My neighbour is still a Jamiroquai and U2 listening, unhinged, dick.

I have to woman up and deal with a work thing I am being utterly shit and craven about. Actually, there are probably tens of work things I am being shit and craven about, but I have a particular one in mind.

The pointless, improbable running away fantasies are strong presently. We will all live in a bothy and raise grouse, or goats, or guinea fowl or something. We will live off stewed heather and carrion and peaty spring water and will not need possessions or money or electricity, and will live a simple life of contemplation in harmony with the land, etc etc etc. Bollocks. I would be running away to the nearest supermarket/wifi network within hours. Nevertheless, the fantasy persists.


It is warm enough to make unwise vestimentary decisions. One of my narcissi is out plus a tentative half crocus. I think the hedgehog must have eaten all the rest before expiring, happy in a job well done, much in the manner of the previous incumbent of the role of dark garden destroyer, Satan.

We tried a new cafe whilst F was being grilled in preparation for "EXAMEN INTERNATIONAL DE CHINOIS" (this is how his teacher describes it, in a manner calculated to create the maximum fear in both of us) and it was really quite nice, with shelves of second-hand books and decent coffee.

I'm having a great streak of reading (see "Reading" page) and basically want to be in bed buried in a book all the time.

The two parcels I thought were lost have finally turned up. We are all ok for socks now! Hold the emergency socks.

The tragopan's approach to romance is hilariously terrible. No, hang on, this is worse (dear seal, I would skip the inflated nasal membrane stage and go straight to "physical violence").

An entertaining misunderstanding on gchat earlier led me to imagining "a howling vortex of quail". Would you consider this a good or a bad thing? I am on the fence. What would you fill a howling vortex with?

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

The sap is rising (but the sap may be caramel)

I know it's been a merciful winter (if you aren't (a) up to your midriff in flood water or (b) in America), but the SUN this weekend was like a sparkly, loving benediction. I kept going outside and just staring at the sky, like a particularly confused sheep, then staring at my four straggly daffodils. Sun! Coupled with actual warmth! I feel like a new person, one whose whole world view doesn't necessarily turn around attempting to construct a survivalist compound out of stolen cashmere and biscuits whilst lightly keening and plotting to fight off wolves (pigeons) with a toasting fork.

Evidence item 1: we went out on Saturday night. It was the annual all-night museum opening thingy, which I usually think about with a pang of half-hearted guilt and then ignore. Instead we went to the glorious dim lit cavern that is "Autoworld" and watched amateur parkour enthusiasts jump off a van ("nous sommes les VRAIS superhéros! OUAIS!")  whilst L bored us all rigid with selected hits from the oeuvre of Top Gear. You may not think this is a great improvement on wintry home nesting, I could not possibly comment. Heady from this unaccustomed excitement, we continued on to the Natural Sciences Museum, which was full of people getting body painted and doing that weird ass acrobatics where you're all wrapped up in a sheet and had a woman who would draw you ANY DINOSAUR YOU WANTED doing anything (within reason) you wanted, so that was wonderful. L got one of those ones with a massive crest on its head doing baseball, which I think was a case of crossed wires, but was magnificent none the less. The evening ended in a deserted branch of crap fast food outlet Quick, because you wouldn't want us all getting used to too much fun.

Evidence item 2: we went to the flea market at lunchtime on Sunday and it was full of the usual jolly Brussels crowd of toothless crazies and hipsters. L complained bitterly for the first hour, then got totally into the swing of things and bought himself some sunglasses that make him look like a minor dictator:

 whilst F searched every alley and corner for a globe and tried on a melancholy brown corduroy train driver's hat:

Evidence item 3: I came to London today and the Eurostar contained a fine selection of mad people, including one carrying, seemingly, nothing but a large head of celery in a plastic bag, and another who sat in the corridor juggling for the whole two hours. I checked with M whether it would be permissible to kill him, and she encouraged me, but in the end the amazing book I am reading kept me from slaughter.

Evidence item 4: Amusing pictures of prime minister greeting pandas.

SPRING FEVER, I tell you. Bring on the ohoes (1 March is OHOE DAY)!

Other news: the shoes I am wearing today are trying to kill me. I have had them for years and vividly remember walking all the way round Madrid in them on a work trip without any discomfort, but now they have decided to destroy me, one toe and one ankle ligament at a time. What has happened? How did it all go so wrong? Have they become evil or have my feet just got old?

It is the start of the mini easter egg season and mini easter eggs are also trying to kill me. A whole bar of chocolate I can easily resist opening, but place me in a house with an open bag of mini eggs, of almost any variety, and I crumble. Consequently, Friday was a pathetic farce of weakness, self-delusion and further weakness:

 Take one egg, put bag back in cupboard.
(2 min break)
Take another egg, put bag back in cupboard, under a packet of flour.
(1 min break)
Take TWO more eggs, just to be realistic, put bag far to the back of cupboard, behind the never-used quinoa.
(30 second break)
Take another two eggs, with no illusion that this is the end of it, but nevertheless, attempt to fool self by hiding few remaining eggs in bag in the biscuit tin.
(1 min break)
Pour all remaining mini eggs down throat reasoning I MIGHT AS WELL JUST SAVE TIME, then sit in a pile of disgarded foil feeling slightly sick and stupid.

So now I owe F a whole bag of Galaxy Caramel mini eggs and I must ensure never to have them in the house again, or indeed anything small and oval and wrapped in foil.

I must stop here and tend to my swelling, screaming ankles and blistered feet. All the glamour, he is mine.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Communist spiders drank my spinal fluid

Hai. It's been ages. I'm not in the best of moods, quite honestly (I feel like this cushion, which M rightly says is my spirit animal), but let's soldier on.

- I have had to unfollow the Belgian pandas Hao Hao and Xing Hui on Twitter because of their ceaseless jolly banter. They haven't even arrived yet (they arrive this weekend) and I am already getting irritable with them. Simmer the fuck down, pandas. Honestly, I would never have imagined pandas to be quite so relentlessly upbeat: I mean, god knows, they don't look upbeat, do they? Mainly they look like they're in the muffling grip of a catatonic depression the like of which one could not hope to alleviate with mere bamboo. If I were running this Twitter feed (and frankly, I should be and this rant is jealousy), I would have voiced them as gloomy Russian romantic novel characters, filled with heavy existential angst and the ennui of a life of stultifying privilege. Admittedly, that might have been a minority taste in social media terms. LOLpandas are obviously where it's at.

- I have some kind of growth/spot/protuberance on my forearm which I assume must be a nest of dangerous spider babies. I checked with M who agreed.

E: I'm going to sell my story to Real People: 'Spiders Nested in my Arm!'

M: Communist spiders.

E: Yes, you're right. I can't really hope for the £100 cash prize for just spiders. 'Communist spiders drank my spinal fluid!'

- I am experiencing dog walking awkwardness. There is a woman I really don't want to walk with (she is very racist) and I keep trying to time my dog walks to avoid her. This is proving impossible. Regardless of whether I go early or late she is ALWAYS THERE (conclusion = she walks her dogs for a really fucking long time), and the dog walking area is too small to avoid her, so .. ugh. Awkwardness. My morning dog walk was my moment of peace (and/or bitter self-flagellation) and now it is a very British dance of social awkwardness, which is what I spend the other 95% of my time doing and really, I did not need more of that in my life.

- I can't bring myself to tell you about the Imminent F Birthday Chickens yet, but suffice to say that I only have about three weeks left before a whole new raft of feathery problems enter my life. However I can tell you that we have managed to make a brand new shiny chicken coop purchased on the internet look like a hideous makeshift favela dwelling, simply with our poor construction skills and some supposedly "clear" weatherproofing that turned out to be pitch black. Oh god, oh god, more animals.


- I love this essay by James Wood "On Not Going Home", about the "light veil of alienation" of life as an expat. It has lots of things I have half thought, far more elegantly expressed than I could ever muster.

- I am also really loving this blog which is a very beautiful combination of sensuous, evocative food writing and sharply observed but forgiving mental health writing.

- I have nearly finished Mrs Hemingway and it is absolutely delightful, even though I do not have any particular interest in Hemingway at all. It is the story of his four wives, basically, across forty years and Hemingway himself seen through that prism. It is very beautifully written and cleverly constructed and draws you right in even if you think Hemingway is a bit of a tool (DEAR LORD what a tool).

- It is totally spring today. Can it possibly last? Let us say it will and soon we will be gamboling through the woods picking bluebells and not skulking through the woods avoiding other dog walkers. I took an enforced alternative route on my dog walk this morning and it concluded with me having to wrestle a drool coated barbecue rib from Oscar's mouth with my bare hands and I say ENOUGH.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Modern curses

May all your parcels be delivered by Yodel.

May your boiler malfunction on the Saturday night of a Bank Holiday weekend.

May your boss stumble across your Twitter feed on an especially bored and pissed off day.

May your juice fast never end.

May your Oyster card function on a five second delay.

May your signature lipstick be discontinued.

May your broadband be patchy and your bandwidth insufficient.

May you accidentally learn searing, unforgettable details of your parents' sex lives.

May your children be thick haired and susceptible to nits.

May the accordeonist always enter your metro carriage.

May your online dating site pair you repeatedly with your ex.

May your dentist become a holistic practitioner without warning.

May your walls be paper thin and your neighbours fond of adventurous sex and Sting.

May your checkout operative always require assistance with an exotic fruit with no bar code.

May your eBay password cease to function as you attempt to place the critical last minute bid.

May your online tax return vanish when you click 'save'.

May your Netflix buffer for all eternity.

May your Post Office queue be the one with all the garrulous pensioners.

May your bagging area hold an unexpected item in perpetuity.

May your sourdough starter perish (bobo curse)

May your contacts be wiped so you can no longer call-screen your exes and loquacious family members.

May your local pharmacy be staffed by hot young men when you need to discuss worms.

May the front page of your commute neighbour's free paper contain the spoilers you were so careful to avoid.

May the postman sneak away leaving a card when YOU WERE IN ALL THE TIME.

May the T-shirt you sourced in a Williamsburg thrift store be available in Urban Outfitters (hipster curse).

May you hit "reply all" instead of "forward".

May your pet develop powerful sexual feelings towards your favourite cushion.

Please add your own modern curses in the comments.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Eyes on the microwave

Nothing amusing has happened in the last couple of days. This is not a complaint, everything is fine, just not very blog-worthy. You can rest your eyes on this list of humdrum non-events in a dull moment, I suppose.


The surviving rat just peed up my (best cashmere jumper) sleeve. It hasn't done this to anyone else. Fucker. Who does it think keeps it in hypo-allergenic bedding and its favourite thyme scented hamster food?

Plumber has vanished after promising that he had "measured the pipe" and would be returning "urgently". Water continues to accumulate in places it should not be.

A man on the Armani counter gave me an unsolicited pity makeover this afternoon, because I was looking at his lipsticks while dishevelled and make up free, and I think because he felt I was bringing the reptilian House of Armani into disrepute. Admittedly I do look pretty awful.

I don't think I can listen to "The Happy Farmer" (Fröliche Landmann, beginner's violin torture, vol 84) again without breaking down irretrievably.

There are two squidgy rubber eyes in a plastic bag on top of the microwave and I think they have been there for a year.

The alien putty too, but I find the eyes much more disturbing. It's the texture. This evening I tried shouting that if they were still there tomorrow I would throw them in the bin and now they have gone, but doubtless I will find them somewhere far worse tomorrow.


FOURTH day of sun. I feel like a new woman (even without a thick layer of unsolicited Armani goop). The wasteland that is the back yard is sprouting (mainly weeds). Birds (mainly pigeons) are singing. I am no longer so enraged at my neighbour that I fantasise about punching his teeth in whilst grinding my own away to stumps. Much. Except during the Jamiroquai sequences.

Made a new friend in the park. She's called Angelika, she's Romanian and she used to be a member of the Committee of the Regions. We had a chat about chickens, children who won't tell you what they want, Brussels, the city all your friends leave, and Romanian winds. She is several decades older than me, obviously, I basically live the life of a pensioner. Hopefully she won't turn out to be a massive racist like my previous dog walking acquaintance. So awkward.

Stroked two nice dogs on public transport: a comical bulldog puppy with gigantic paws (rather smelly) and an effusive Staffie called Ziggy, who made noises like a pig. Ziggy's owner said she was actually "a really fat whippet".  He looked traveller-esque and spoke heavily Cockney accented English, but not to native level, quite a puzzle on the Brussels metro. Most things on the Brussels metro are a puzzle though (music, civil war reminiscent levels of disrepair, futile barriers, etc etc).

We tested eye creams on Facegoop and mine were bloody disastrous, so that's one less thing to spend my money on. Results here. There's nothing like a vast, awful, exhausted picture of yourself with no concealer or foundation around your eyes to raise morale. I really need that 3 day cantaloupe and salmon facelift, shame it's absolute bollocks, eh.

Apparently the Belgian pandas arrive later this month!

My cephalopod correspondent has alerted me to this both touching and profoundly unsettling piece of capybara behaviour*. DR CAPYBARA? IS THAT YOU? BLINK IF YOU NEED HELP.

Do fill me in on anything more interesting you have been doing, which has to be one of the lowest bars imaginable.

*NB: For the avoidance of doubt, the capybara, despite its classification by the Catholic church as a 'fish' is not a cephalopod.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Spring is here, a suh puh ring is here*

Belgium giveth, Belgium taketh away.

Up then Down: after an inauspicious start (leaking boiler), I bestrode this morning like a moth-eaten colossus. I went to the bank and the dry cleaners, posted letters and sorted out my invoices, called the plumber, made appointments and checked my bank balance to discover TWO of my large outstanding invoices had been paid. But then in the afternoon I got another comically massive bill that is, without a shred of exaggeration, double the two of them put together. I say comical, I'm just pretending it's a joke. It's for the best. I just .. can't. Nonono. Fully ostriching.

Up: the sun was actually warm today. Weepette and I stood out in the back yard, both of us pressed against the wall, eyes closed, for twenty minutes and it was properly lovely.

Down: my lunch, however, was truly revolting. A new culinary nadir, made from leftover salmon rejected by all of us as too disgusting to eat last night, fried up with some other unpleasant oddments from the fridge. I have no explanation of this, other than 'idiot' and 'half hearted Dr Perricone' ("is there a facelift in your fridge?', asks the worryingly reptilian Dr P to which I must reply 'no, Doctor Lizard, but there are 500 heads of chicory and half a flabby salmon fillet in an ill-advised marinade I still have to choke down, so this 3 day facelift better start happening soon'. The chicory isn't Dr P's fault, we went to a rural market to examine chickens for F's imminent birthday - don't ask - and our heads were turned by bargain chicory).

(Parenthetical down: L has just come down - it's half eleven - to tell me he can't sleep because he has 'Poisoning Pigeons in the Park' going round and round in his brain. New rule = no Tom Lehrer before bed).

Up: there's a frankincense themed giveaway going on over on Full Fat Facegoop (which M has redesigned most elegantly).

Down: a new low in Belgian philately, and god knows, things weren't exactly great before now. Truly awful. Perfect for your accountant, small claims litigation, letters of complaint to utility companies, all correspondence requiring a certain degree of gravitas:



The dogs remind me of the cubes of destiny you get on OK Cupid, where they send you a montage of photographs of hopefuls with the tantalising message 'one of these people chose you!' (it is invariably the one who makes you involuntarily recoil from your screen in alarm/revulsion). If these dogs were my OK Cupid montage ... well. I don't even know who I'd be hoping for. But I would DEFINITELY get top left on the bottom set, and the poodle on the top. 

Who would be your canine OK Cupid death match?