Monday, 31 March 2014


Down (brace yourselves):

I am on a three day juice cleanse for Facegoop (we thought it would be funny and people would click on it earning us whole fractions of pennies, fools that we are) and hating it, obviously. Worst elements: furry teeth, beetroot juice, broccoli juice, have lost 30 IQ points I couldn't afford to lose since intellect already burning on lowest imaginable wattage, basically being unable to function, having to cook food for other people (pizza tonight!) and all the other bits. I have got the easy job though (due to the extensive history of eating insanity), M has twelve days of hell to survive and hers comes with added flax oil and supplements and strictures about fruit seasonality. Am I regretting this right now? Yes, yes I am. My dinner is "nut milk" (at least it's not beetroot, I suppose).

Fell over cable and broke laptop screen in a juice addled daze. It's still functioning, but its days are numbered.

Neighbour is on especially poisonous musical form.

Had to go and collect L from an out of town car park at 7 this morning (post clock change, nice touch) at end of his state mandated ski trip. Notice was strident about how important it was to be on time, so I got up at 6:15 and got on the tram and arrived at ten to 7. The bus finally arrived at 9. There's not much to do in a car park in Drogenbos at that time in the morning.

The London Zoo Tiger Cub Cam is finished and I had included it in my round up of baby animal webcams and now I am fruitlessly searching the internet for a replacement. Where are your best baby animals hiding, the Internet? I can only find birds (as you know, I am pro-bird, but I need to cater to a broad church).


L is back, desiccated like a prune and filthy but delighted with the whole thing (and even more delighted with the Swiss Army Knife he has bought himself). He even claims the soirée raclette was "trop bien" and his expression on the photos was not representative, because he was allowed unlimited potatoes and meat (mmmmm potatoes) (mmmmmm meat).

Lovely calm weekend, including trip to a very eccentric bar full of mad old Bretons on Saturday night. We never actually got served amidst the chaos and the ancient jazz musicians and the man in full 19th century riding regalia throwing a ball for his dog. "Oh yes" said the waiter, vaguely. "I think I probably forgot about you", which was at least honest.

Rat is home from the vet's! This is a cross-category kind of thing, because (i) vet's bill was €100 (less than I feared, but gougingly enormous nevertheless); and (ii) we still need to give him antibiotics twice daily FOR A MONTH and having tried this out this evening, I can see we're going to have heaps of fun with it. But the rat and his child are at least reunited and touching scenes have ensued.

Ugh, I fell asleep trying to write this (despite ear-bleeding neighbour music), but will post it anyway, because I might not be able to remember my own name tomorrow. Or raise my arms.

90% juice
2% nut "milk"
8% ear plugs


Friday, 28 March 2014

I do not want any more rats

We went to visit the rat at the vet's yesterday. Yes, I know, that sounds ludicrous and I'm fairly certain the rat is totally indifferent to our presence. But when the vet's receptionist calls you and brightly tells you you can visit between 3 and 5, do you not appear to be the most heartless bastard in the world if you don't visit your (well, not even your rat, but still) beloved pet? Yes, yes you do. But then if you do go and visit a rat, you look like the kind of mad, socially difficult middle aged woman who has a picture of their cat embossed on their fleece. Really, you can't win, and suddenly you're standing in a veterinary surgery, trying to make conversation with a rodent.

So anyway, we went, and if there is a sadder place than the room where the vet is keeping him, I do not think my heart could stand it. It is small and heated to that dispiriting, debilitating fug you get in retirement homes and it smells of animal fear and disinfectant with faint base notes of poo. The whole room is lined with cages: along one wall is a series of tragic dogs in cones of shame, pugs with runny noses, whimpering bichons and confusingly proportioned, lumpen mongrels, like bags of Cadbury's misshapes. Under the work surface near the door is a cramped, folded up, silent Great Dane, staring out like a Chekov character contemplating the distance to Moscow. Perpendicular to dog wall, is a wall of hunched, appalled, cats. Most of them have their backs turned to the wall. Unlike the dogs, they do not have a little frisson of anticipation and turn our way when we walk in. Oh, the sad, sad, hopeful, sad eyes of the poorly dogs.

In the 'miscellaneous' corner, a large turtle in a tiny aquarium, ramming up against the plastic repeatedly (the turtle lady was in the waiting room when I brought Peanut in - she had 5 turtles, a tortoise, a dog, cats, a squirrel (??), and a long rambling tale about who had bitten who. I felt quite comforted in my mad animal lady status). A very still, unblinking bearded dragon.  Two shuffling tortoises half hidden under a small heap of hay.

"Take us home" everyone was saying, in their own, uniquely distressing, ways. PLEASE TAKE US HOME. I know it's for their own good and so on, but oh man, they were all so miserable.

Peanut was in a small cage with L's pyjama top for company, next to a quivering chihuahua. He didn't seem that sick (less wheezy) or upset, but he has a big wound on his back that is entirely new and the vet seemed not to have a clue where it had come from and now it's going to be like those people who go into hospital for a routine procedure and die of MRSA and L is coming home on Sunday night and I am experiencing some anxiety about this sequence of events. Please pray for me that the vet doesn't kill the rat? The unhappy experience of Julius is still quite prominent in my mind (if you don't want to hear about the attempted manual reinsertion of a tortoise penis, amputation, stump massage and - spoiler alert - death, do not click that link).

(This is a jolly Friday afternoon tale for you, isn't it? Death, amputation, grotesquery).

Update: I went back to visit AGAIN today (alone, L would not come with me, presumably not wanting to be associated with my aura of crazy old woman).

'What have you been up to this week?'
'Well, I shouted repeatedly at some hens until I thought I had lost my mind and went to visit a sick rat daily.'

I insisted on seeing the vet this time, who is about 20 and who plainly thinks I have invented this rat-loving "son" to appear more normal, when in fact I am a peri-menopausal loon who lives in squalor and has befriended an actual rat from the gutter, attracted by the stench of rotting food in my kitchen. He wants to keep the rat over the weekend but isn't too worried and says we can probably take him home on Monday. I am still running MRSA doom scenarios in my mind, however. Also, how much is this all going to cost? I estimate "enough to buy a sufficient number of rats to knit myself a horse made of rats and ride it around Brussels".

And that is the story of my day, barring some slapstick with a roll of wire and an extended fantasy about buying a château with my friend F. I have finished writing about noodles, thank god.


20% Unpleasant herbal beverages
20% Searching for a voluminous and very cheap ginger wig for Facegoop
20% No fucking clue what happened to this week
20% Impatient for my larger child to return in spite of rat issues
10% Impatient for dog not to bark hysterically every time I say the word "Right"
10% Impatient for gin.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Allumez le feu

Shit, I haven't posted since Monday? It's not as if I've been gainfully occupied.

Judge for yourself whether these are ups or downs. There is little ambiguity, I suspect.

1. My neighbour has started singing along to his Johnny Halliday records.

2. I have spent much of the day chasing the chickens with a broom like a 1950s grandmother. They now spend more time confined to their generously proportioned chicken enclosure, but I am a bleeding heart chicken liberal and let them out for "variety" and "fun", which they reward by heading, with the pinpoint accuracy of drones, to the one square metre of the garden I want them to leave the fuck alone (it's where my Solomon's Ladders are trying to come out). Whose fault is this? Mine, obviously.

3. I have been screwed out of €41 by the paintball bastards.

4. Peanut the rat is on antibiotics at the vet's until the end of the week. We just got a postcard from L (soul of brevity) which says "Toblerones are 10 francs, do not forget Peanut". Little chance of that, my friend. I hope he gets home before L. Gah.

5. Lambing Live is enormously soothing. The wholesome curly haired woman keeps grabbing rams' testicles. There are lambs. Loads of lambs. Rolling Scottish landscapes. Chiselled men. I wish I could inject it directly into my eyeballs.

6. Still no one is answering my emails. (I do not blame them, they are not very compelling)

7. Mrs Bovary did the most lovely picture of me. Sigh. In my DREAMS I look like that.

8. Brain feels totally woolly, slow, confused. I spent all of yesterday laboriously writing 150 words on noodles. Are there supplements you can take that replicate the effect of a capybara kick up the arse? Crack, perhaps.

9. Daffodils are such good value. 2 quid, ten days of cheerful, no disgusting water slimage (hyacinths, I am looking at you).


20% Angry sinuses
10% Mild hangover
10% Yes, I'd love to work for a fraction of the rate I quoted you for that job because it's "good experience", silly me, I should have suggested that myself.
10% Pre-emptive Facegoop juice detox terror
10% Obama visit anti-climax
10% Lambing Live anticipation
8% Running away fantasies
22% Yorkshire Gold


Monday, 24 March 2014

In your own time


General question: how long do you wait before chasing people up on things they are supposed to be doing? Where is the optimum point along the continuum between 'being an officious, pushy arsehole' and 'letting your interlocutor forget you ever existed'? I err, I know, on the side of longer rather than shorter, unless I, in turn, am being chased. As a result, I am currently having intense chasing angst. I definitely made it clear that time was of the essence, but people's notions of what is expeditious vary wildly, I have learnt in 40 years and when I think I am being emphatic I am in fact making barely audible, fluting, conciliatory British noises that convey something like 'do whatever you feel is appropriate, far be it from me to impose my will upon you, how presumptuous'. Honestly, that's perfectly clear, isn't it? Once more, it is confirmed to me I should have lived in feudal Japan.

Weekend of way too much child activity, despite only having one child. Saturday: EXAMEN INTERNATIONAL day finally arrived, so an early morning trip to Ghent university (with all important doubling back for forgotten passport, for added adrenalin boost). Top tip: nothing is open in the Ghent student quarter at 9am on a Saturday and it is a sad, unsavoury place filled with discarded frite wrappers and vomit (at 9am on Saturday, doubtless charming at other times, such as AFTER DARK, DRUNK). Do not go there. EXAMEN INTERNATIONAL was apparently a success, though F has to wait 2 months for results, since papers are sent back to China to be marked by the Comintern. Saturday night: two additional children (very nice and well-behaved, but you know, still additional children). Sunday 9am - 3pm, child party logistics, stress, negotiating with highly rigid and unhelpful paintball man about latecomers (not admitted) and with late-running parents, etc etc etc. Gin is your friend in these circumstances, at least after you have delivered the remaining children back to their parents. On Sunday night, we ended up watching a Gaelic language programme of a woman making a treacle tart because none of us had the resources to find the remote and change the channel. There does not appear to be a word for "ginger" in Gaelic, I note (also, query: why are you putting ginger in your treacle tart, you silver tongued fiend?).

Peanut, the surviving rat, is having severe respiratory problems (v common in rats) and I am reduced to praying to/pleading with a high power I do not recognise that it does not expire before L returns from the school trip. F, who is sort of in charge of rat in L's absence, is beside himself about the horrors of pet mortality ("I should have got tortoises, not chickens", he just said sadly). I know this is how it goes with pets and we make their short lives as happy and comfortable as we can and it is a crucial apprenticeship for the losses and heartbreak of adult life, but we could all have done with a couple of months respite, not least the rat.

Tried to watch True Detective because everyone says it is amazing and it made me feel like I had had a stroke because I did not understand any of the dialogue, it was like a scene from Twin Peaks or something when the dwarf was speaking backwards. Apparently I am only fit for Poirot.


Basically this and this only: HERO RATS. (don't say rat - Ed). If you don't like pictures of enormous rats, (i) what the hell is wrong with you; and (ii) don't follow that link.

First ever 2 egg day (welcome to Farming Today, I'm your host, Boring McChickenbore).

Cheese-phobic L's expression on the photos of the school trip raclette night is quite, quite priceless. He is incandescent with disgust at the spectacle of so much melted cheese. I laughed.

High point of evening (low bar): a tin of pineapple chunks and some babies being born on telly. No one mistook head for genitals this week, but a woman called her child Evie Primrose, which is far too close to Evening Primrose. Was she conceived in Holland & Barrett? I suppose Evie is better than eg. Glucosamine. Or Whey.

20% woolly, incoherent philosophical thoughts on family life, subsiding rapidly into 2% terror and 18% confusion and a desire for shit telly
10% Euro elections rap-battle befuddlement (early April Fool, please?)
10% M&S chocolate ginger biscuits
20% self-inflicted bleeding chapped lips
20% pitch related self-loathing
10% bra rage
15% too tired for complicated percentage maths
0% willpower.


Silence of the Orbits

"So, we're doing this thing for Facegoop on Game of Thrones, but I've never seen it."

"C'est quoi, Game of Thrones?"

"How can you have not heard of Game of Thrones? Really? You really don't know what it is?"

"No. Is it the thing with that famous actor about politics?"

"What? No. Not House of Cards. Have you really never even heard of it? You know, the fantasy thing with bloodshed and dragons and nudity and warring tribes?"

"Oh, the film? Le Seigneur.."

"No. Not Le Seigneur des Agneaux*. GAH! ANNEAUX*. I always do that."

"Seigneur des Agneaux. Ha. Is it the thing with Orbits?"


"Orbits. You know. Little orbits? Little, hairy orbits?"


"Oui. Orbits."

"No. Not the Orbit. Hobbit. This has dragons. Dwarves. Nudity. A big, spiky throne."

"Then .. no."

*Lord of the Lambs


Thursday, 20 March 2014



I don't even know what I was supposed to be achieving this week any more, but I think we can safely assume I haven't achieved it, or any part thereof.

It's F's (belated) birthday party at the weekend (paintball, courtesy of an incredibly officious organisation, are you running a children's party or Switzerland?) and I worked on the normal party assumption that 20-30% wouldn't come but they are ALL coming and it is proving both expensive and logistically horrifying and why on earth are we doing this (answer: because his brother did it, so fairness).

My whole head itches (hayfever? Really? Plus reaction to eyeliner). The downside of this beautiful, glorious, unseasonal sun (yes, I can find one) is that I keep catching sight of my puffy, irritated face in the reflection from my laptop and it's most unedifying.

Part of the day spent trying to translate a document out of the language I describe as "Business Martian" into English. Total failure. I apologise to the English language.

Truly horrible nightmare about having newborn twins (kept losing them, dropping one down lavatory, that kind of thing).


Incredible, delicious relief of waking up to realise I do not actually have newborn twins.

L has arrived safely on the school ski trip (STATE SCHOOL. STATE IMPOSED SKI TRIP, this has been your British class guilt interlude), according to a brief, idiosyncratically punctuated message from "La Direction". I imagine this is all we will hear for the next ten days. Prior to that he shamelessly deceived me by claiming "everyone" was having the day off to prepare for the trip which turned out to be a total, brazen lie, only he and his friend Liam had gullible enough parents to fall for this transparent trick. I didn't really mind. He has been waiting impatiently for the ski trip for about 3 years, so excitement levels yesterday hovered between 'noise so high pitched as to be only audible to dogs' and 'stoat dance of death'. We delivered him to a car park at 7:30 last night, whereupon he stonily turned his back on us, of course. Having been summarily dismissed and then shunned, we watched him board a rather rickety looking coach from a distance and left. This means another 10 days of rat entertainment. F has been drafted in to assist, but he says the chickens plus the rat are too much, to which I am tempted to say "WELCOME TO MY WORLD CHILD, and when was the last time you donned the yellow rubber glove of despair and demined the garden of chicken shit?"

Had a little aperitif out in the actual world, where there are other people to whom I am not related, this evening. We went to La Piola which is a nice ramshackle Italian bar where you get to help yourself to a free plate of 'aperitif' (random looking selection of leftovers, like something you might dig out of your own fridge in desperation - a plate of peas! Some pallid sausage! Reheated pasta! - but somehow tastier for not issuing from your own fridge) to accompany your glass of wine and there was a large, sweet broken looking greyhound to pet.

The expression "in the context of my face".

Continued beautiful, glorious, unseasonal sun. Even the incredibly bad-tempered lady in the Zizi ice cream parlour is going to start looking cheery if this continues.

F has just showed me how he puts the chickens on their perches (they don't know how to perch and you are supposed to gently encourage them by showing them what to do) and it was hilarious. They fall off forwards most of the time because they are sleepy and very stupid.

My crush on Stromae engulfs galaxies with this new World Cup leçon.


I was childishly fascinated by this display of sex toys in the impulse section by the till of Di (the Belgian equivalent and let me say it is not even remotely equivalent) of Boots. TicTacs? Lip balm? A Twix? Or a sex toy called "The Frenchman" that looks like a kitchen utensil? OH GO ON THEN, twist my arm. Faites-vous plaisir, indeed.

(While sending this picture to myself in order to upload it I SO SO SO nearly sent it to a serious law contact whose name is next to mine in my contacts list. SO CLOSE. His name had already auto-filled and I had to delete it. Brrrrrr).


70% Norwegian bluetit stalking
10% Piriton anticipation
10% administrative assholery
5% disgusting fingerclaw shame
3% underwhelmed at the chicken from hell
2% having that thing where it seems unmanageably exhausting to raise yourself from sofa, brush teeth, wash face etc, so you delay and dawdle and suddenly it's midnight and you STILL have to do all that stuff, fool.

Monday, 17 March 2014

Bread, no circuses

I had lofty ideas about writing something 'proper', but I keep running out of time (all that staring into space and complaining is very time consuming), so tonight will be another boring Up/Down of the past few days. Sorry. I am so dull.


- I waited 2 full hours for a smear test on Friday, during which time I am fairly sure I went through the menopause. Maybe twice. The atmosphere in the waiting room full of pregnant and peri-menopausal women was febrile with hormonal rage. At one point the gynecologist's brother wandered in and tried to engage us all in cheery banter. He was seconds away from getting shanked by a number of women with very full bladders. Two hours and €70 to be manipulated like a cow in a James Herriot book! Delightful. Hello and welcome to my aspirational lifestyle blog.

- Owed significant amounts of money which I must chase down, wearily, then hand in its entirety over to the Social Security people who continue to plot my economic (possibly total) downfall.

- Things the chickens have destroyed: EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD. Giant, scratchy yellow feet uprooting everything that once grew (admittedly mainly dandelions and uncontrollable, insane sage plants). I have one tulip left and if they fuck it up, we are going to fall out, big time.

- My pudding is 10 days out of date. I am basically playing Bonne Maman roulette.  

- Terrible skin. March is always my month of terrible skin. Which is nice, because March is usually also horrible in many other ways. Who needs to leave the house anyway?


- No one is going to demand to weigh me for another 18 months (I NEVER EVER EVER weigh myself, because, who needs to know that shit, but the gynecologist insists).

- Chickens laid another egg (as they should, if they wish to continue scratching my flowers up. I like them really, destructive bastards).

- I went to a sourdough class on Sunday and made an actual bread! There was colomba (Easter Pannetone-alike) and two kinds of croissants and tiny glasses of artisanal hooch and we got to play with weird alien sourdough and it was excellent. My resultant bread both looks and tastes like bread, which is a first for me. BEHOLD THE BREAD:

Hideous late night light, as bread emerges from oven. 

Morning bread, which I am forcing everyone to eat whether they like it or not. "But I want cereal" "WELL YOU CAN'T"

I know lots of people know how to do this, but I am not one of them and any time I have tried, the results look like a dreaded skin disease grown in a laboratory, so yay for bread. I forgot to bring my starter home with me, which, given my nurturing limitations, may be a good thing. I have way too many live things to tend in this house already, adding a capricious, demanding, flour and water tamagotchi into the equation would have probably been unwise.

(Belgians, you should try one of these classes though, they are great - she's doing one on May 4th, check here)

- My younger child is relating the Minuscule film to me in minute, careful detail, in English, over several hours and it is strangely charming. "Then the black ants knocked on the ladybird with their antennae like they were making it a knight and it made a sound like a, what it is? The thing you hit? With a stick? Ah, yes, a xylophone", etc etc etc.

- Adorable baby fox is adorable.


30% itchy eye rage
30% white knuckle financial juggling
10% Facegoop plotting
10% Half watching the highly distracting midwifery programme, One Born Every Minute. I have many questions. Is the baby breech? Did you really just ask if that is a vulva or a face? How can you confuse the two? It is a face! All is well!
10% forgot to wash 'hair'
10% Terre d'Hermès Eau Très Fraîche (very nice).


Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Updates, various

Hello! I am having a week, where I don't seem to manage to do anything, including updating my blog. What are those things that play dead, to the point practically of giving off an odour of putrefaction? Possums? I am one of those. Come, paddle in the tepid shallows of my self-loathing, where even the piranhas have got bored and swum off. I can't be bothered to fetch my charger, though, so at least you only have 39% of this nonsense to endure.

Chinese revision update
The date for "EXAMEN INTERNATIONAL DE CHINOIS" approaches (22nd, source your 2B pencil and your naked terror) and revision .. well. I'm not going to say it intensifies, because it doesn't. It continues, somewhere between bewilderment (me) and mild exasperation (F). The Chinese phrases are quite different to my more usual diet of Dutch phrases (over in the unpleasantly illustrated pages of Tweetalig? Grag! Angelique and Lies have been having the most appalling party for what feels like the last 6 months. Only about three people have come and Hans has bought Angelique a knuffelbeer. The whole business is unspeakably sordid).

Chinese phrases:

Why does the fish you are drawing have legs?
It is not a fish, it is a small bird.

Do pandas have ears?
No answer is provided to this one. 

Sorry, how is your eye now?
Intrigued by context here. 

What is your Mandarin teacher like?
Multiple choice answers:
(a) going to sleep
(b) over there
(c) very pretty

Other preoccupations of the Chinese revision sheets: drawing pandas, eating, to whom dogs belong. I like its priorities.

Chicken update
The hens (now named Chili and Tabasco by the returned F, who is reassuringly enchanted with them) are well. They spend their days trampling my seven pathetic flowers to pulp with great application,  chasing other birds out of the garden, shitting and stalking around looking for stuff to destroy, tiny yellow eyes darting everywhere, like those velociraptors in the kitchen in Jurassic Park. They are pretty good value and make me laugh a lot with their tiny stupid eyes and weird head movements. And! Just as I was writing this, one of them laid an egg. An actual egg! Excitement is unbridled. This is F before he remembered he doesn't actually like eggs.

Children update
It is so, so lovely to have the children back that I cannot even begrudge the mess and the chaos and the Top Gear and the vast expense of their extra-curricular activities dribbling out of my wallet in €30 increments. I seem to have spent most of this week as a sort of child concierge, but frankly I am SO useless at the moment, it is all I am fit for. Also, they bought me an angry marmot keyring.

"They know you so well, your children" said M and she is right. There is nothing more likely to make my heart explode than my children buying me a present.

I wanted to make it eat a cracker in hommage to this famous clip, but i did not have any crackers, so here he is eating shortbread:

Food update
This Picard broad bean and spinach soup is a total lunchtime winner in my gastro-desert of crap lunches, even though it sounds like something utterly ill-conceived I'd come up with in a moment of crisper emptying desperation. Actually, the arrival of fancy frozen food chain Picard in Belgium has been one of my greatest small joys of the last year. When we lived in Paris, Picard was often the only place I dared to go into, because in other shops you had to talk to people and it would invariably end badly or you could go to Monoprix but it was a stygian basement of terror and the till harridans would invariably find something I had done WRONG (attempting to pay with a note larger than €20, unbalancing the conveyor belt, asking a question..). Picard was - still is - quiet and spacious and peaceful and in the clean and shiny freezers there were things of unimaginable sophistication: pre-chopped shallots and sorrel and fancy TV dinners with artichokes and salsify and god knows what. Now I go in there for bags of berries and bagels and mini eclairs (best consumed still half frozen, straight from the packet, in the unflattering yellow light of the open fridge door) and to be lulled and consoled by the attractively presented frozen dinners. It still looks and smells and feels the same as it did ten years ago and amidst the freezers and the softly piped muzak I can believe that EVERYTHING WILL BE ALRIGHT and there is something delicious in puff pastry for tea.

My three tier lemon sponge, however, has not proved a winner in the sense that I made it and it took me ages, what with the homemade lemon curd, and no bastard is eating it, except me (they have gone off lemon sponge, fickle weasels that they are).

Percentage update
30% face ache
20% befuddlement
20% sun euphoria
10% greasy frites
10% Line of Duty anticipation
10% Glad I am not at Angelique and Lies's party.


Friday, 7 March 2014

Technically a fish

Well, that was a massively frustrating day, workwise, and I mean that in the sense that I was shit at it. At everything. On balance, I declare this week completely crap from a work perspective, but excellent from a food and sleep perspective. Well, not tonight's interesting leftover combo - breaded fish, limp cauliflower purchased circa mid January, some wilted ancient chinese greens and a dodgy avocado - which I accept with hindsight was not a winner. But I have been enraptured with the green weirdness I have cooked myself all week, and have not got up before quarter to eight ONCE. Frankly, this should count as an achievement, albeit an entirely passive one.

30% (feels like 150%) massive throbbing face aching cold sore.
30% chicken observation (of which 5% unnerved, 10% delighted, 15% watching 'how to catch chickens' videos - Texan man with a "chicken leg hook", respectfully, it is my contention that you are overcomplicating things)
20% being a dickhead.
10% old vegetables.
8% Aromatherapy Associates bath oil induced euphoria.
2% Lindt chocolate squares.


Throbbing head.

Dodgy dinner.

Dog has scratched up nice chair in a fit of chicken jealousy.

Had to drive wrong way down a one way street just at the moment that several cars sought to go down it the right way.

Suppurating burn on hand.

Kindle lead has disappeared.

Earned about 75 quid this week, wrote about 6000 words, lost any sense of what the fuck I was writing them for.


Boys back tomorrow.

This mindblowing set of pictures featuring the already famous Cheesecake the capybara, but now also featuring CROUTON THE TORTOISE and a range of other amazing things. Which one is your favourite? IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO CHOOSE (the watermelon).

M: That capybara has been hogging the bath for HOURS.
E: The dogs are all tutting. Capybara is all "are any of you assholes semi-aquatic? No? Then get out of my sight, punks."
M: I'm technically a fish.
E: So... fuck you very much.

Chickens not as hard to catch as the Internet would have you believe.

Chicken laid EGG (even though this is bonus egg incubated elsewhere, it is still proof of chickens' vast superiority as pets. No other bugger in this house has ever done anything half as useful).

Got invited to do a sourdough class for free. Next level bobo ninja skills await.

M has taught me something clever and technical (for me) AND IT IS NOW WORKING, M!

Actually, when you write it all down, that doesn't sound such a shit day after all. Which is quite the high to end the week on. Hurrah!

A picture:

Hens on mission of destruction. As you can see, the garden already looks like shit, so it's not as if they can do much (additional) harm.

And you? Ups, downs, percentages?

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Chicken unboxing

Hi. Welcome to some terrible photos of chickens. For full authenticity I should be doing this unboxing with a flat, unmodulated voiceover in which I describe every minute feature of each chicken until your brain starts to liquefy and seep out of your ear, but luckily for you, I had a cocktail instead. They have yellow legs. Tiny beady eyes. Feathers and so on. That's all I have.

Phase 1: selection. Your wishes are pretty much irrelevant to this lady. Don't ask her to do any heavy lifting because "they put wires in my back".

Phase 2: transport. Chickens are terrible co-pilots.

Phase 3: arrival


Phase 5: download.

Phase 6: installation.

Phase 7: Compatibility testing ongoing.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Seven things today

1. I confided in my friend B this morning that when I go outside to close my eyes and feel the warm sun and be in the moment, I find myself shouting at my crocuses. "What is WRONG with you? Every other crocus in the neighbourhood is out! You just aren't even trying. ARE YOU JUST FUCKING WITH ME?". It seems possible I am doing this mindfulness/being in the moment/enjoying the warm sun on my back business wrong. B was very reassuring. "Yes! I got angry at my dwarf narcissus and proclaimed myself a gardening failure". Flower rage is very 2014.

2. My sample pack of earplugs has arrived!

They were in a purple gauze bag with a ribbon tie, which is a whole lot more fancy than I expected for a job lot of earplugs. I have been examining them with great interest: there is a glitzy and overwhelming range of colours and styles (yes, this is what my life has come to this week and I am totally fine with it). Waxy ones: ew, Prog Rock used to wear these, I remember disgusting pink sticky slugs on his bedside table. Tie-dye effect ones: what the fuck. Yellow ones that look like a mouse has mistaken them for a piece of cheese and nibbled them: ??? I cannot decide which to try first. Which would you pick? As you know, I am as easily swayed as a reed in a breeze.

3. The phrases "the owl on the skateboard will be the farm overlord, of course" and "come, asteroid, I am ready for you, bring the dark veil of permafrost over our sins" (neither of them mine).

4. M laughed at my British class guilt about skiing yesterday. "It's ok. YOUR FATHER IS A KNIGHT OF THE REALM", which is, I suppose, true, but he is not the kind of Knight of the Realm who skis. Do knights ski, actually? Don't they just moulder around the Home Counties with their labradors? I'm not sure. He was once persuaded to go, but he declared he looked like "an epileptic dog" and abandoned it as a bad job, which just goes to further demonstrate his great intellect.

5. Things are going badly for the dog. It decided to run after a cat this afternoon, and has pulled a muscle. It is now hopping around on three legs pathetically, plumbing hitherto unimaginable depths of weepette misery. Then I had the rat on my knee on the sofa whilst watching the TV and gave it a bit of chocolate biscuit, and now he can't believe the massive extent of my betrayal. I cannot begin to imagine how it is going to cope when THE CHICKENS are introduced into the equation tomorrow. Also, he smells at the moment. He never used to be a smelly dog, so something is going on and I hope it's not just age, because he's only five and there's another good ten years in him. Maybe a bath? I sort of assume he's self-cleaning until he gets himself into something revolting, but I think this requires intervention.

6. Yes, tomorrow I have to go and fetch the sodding birthday chickens. I called the chicken place up to check they were open and I think sounded completely feeble-minded, because I have forgotten how to speak this week due to total monastic isolation, and the French has been the first thing to go. "Me? Hens? Can have?" The toothless jack the lad chicken salesman ( this is not poetic licence: we went to inspect his chickens on a far flung market some weeks ago) will totally see me coming.

M: Do you have the eggs? Is it eggs? Do they come in eggs?

E: No. They come pre-feathered. In cardboard boxes. Actually, I will probably come back with a one legged quail and a rabid peacock and be none the wiser.

M: HA.

E:  "Si si madame, c'est une belle poule pondeuse". (Yes madam, it's a lovely layer)

M: "Une poule à ventre bleu" (a blue bellied chicken).

I will report back, doubtless in some detail, on the whole sorry affair.

7. Things I have tidied today:

Blogroll (loads of you have stopped blogging. Recommend me some new blogs, please)
Phone icons
Fruit bowl
Lindt squares in the biscuit tin into towers of different varieties

Conclusion: I really need to get out more. Thank goodness for chickenquest!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014


I got a fuzzy picture by email today of the children on their first ever black slope. They are quite difficult to spot and, I would hazard, stuck in a snowdrift, but what do I know? Nothing. I hate skiing, it's all imminent peril and synthetic fibres and their attendant static electric shocks and the kind of people who would crush me underfoot in any kind of stampede wooshing up behind me at high speed as I flail around in a crabbed snowplough. There is a reason I have not gone with them.

(I know skiing is unspeakably bourgeois if you are English, but they are basically French (or possibly Belgian) and I tell myself the rules don't apply. Anyway, L has to go on a two week ski trip with the gulag in a fortnight and it is a bog standard state school and all pupils in the last year of primary state education in Belgium seem to do this, so I am sticking by my guns, no need to put them up against the wall come the revolution. Weasel justification over).

It was accompanied by a short message. L's part read "I only fell over three times on THE BLACK which is called 'Le Couloir de la Sonnerie' which sounds like an alarm clock, dring! there goes the couloir de la sonnerie, not a very impressive name".  F's read "I only fell over once on the BLACK. Apart from that everything is ok I've just got out of the pool we love you."

(except it was all in French, because they are French and thus skiing is ok, remember)

So that was nice, and possibly the nicest thing all day, which M and I jointly considered to be one of our whiniest days in the long and august history of our joint whining (I wondered, briefly, if I should give up whining for Lent, but I know it is physically impossible and I am not a Catholic, or indeed, an anything). Also on the positive side of the ledger, it is mild and sporadically sunny and I have made spinach béchamel pasta gratin which is my other most favourite food no one else likes (my giant vat of dal was a slightly over-salted, but otherwise roaring, success). On top of that, Prog Rock is sending me emergency teabags, so honestly, what am I complaining about? Nothing. Shut up, me.


44% abject mental crapness
20% pasta
15% bad knees
5% dodgy skin
5% Glen Baxter joy
4% nascent kitchen based OCD
4% warm thoughts about Prog Rock
2% Tom Lehrer earworms
1% irrational fear of ending up in front of a Grand Jury after finishing House of Cards.

Monday, 3 March 2014


(I used to do this on Twitter, but I thought I'd resurrect, since I do not have a sensible thought in my head tonight, or indeed possibly this week)

78% crap press releases
10% negative work news
0% positive work news
10% friends complaining about Monday
1% Earplug despatch notice
1% stuffed fox on a bicycle (thank you, Alan)

60% healthy stuff (lentils, stir fry, wholemeal bread, vegetables)
20% Yorkshire Gold tea
20% bad stuff (Mini Eggs, Marcolini jam, salted peanuts, biscuits)

Mental state
30% Monday existential self-loathing
10% Ohoe absence grief
20% greed
20% laughing at stupid jokes
10% dogged
5% neighbour music rage
5% snake/crocodile wonder (thanks, Karen)

20% avocado stains
20% holes
20% Prozac trousers
10% pretty Stella McCartney camisole under manky jumper
10% emergency cardigan
20% giving up and putting pyjamas back on

30% slogging fitfully towards 1500 words
30% staring into space/at Twitter
10% desultory Facegoop chat
10% Pinterest fuckery
10% CMS wrestling
5% mis-entering 90000 CAPTCHA words
5% apologies

60% not for me
20% bills
18% witchdoctor flyers
2% ludicrously glossy cashmere catalogue destined for recycling


Sunday, 2 March 2014


Uccle is so quiet this weekend, it feels like someone has coshed it over the head. Empty streets, no cars, barely a scrawny cross-eyed cat sitting behind a net curtain and staring out (these normally make up 63% of the Uccle population. 63% cross-eyed scrawny cats in windows, 14% boring middle class families, 10% despondent pensioners in those green loden coats with aggressive dachshunds/teckels, 1% menacing youth and 12% lunatics) ). Well, all is quiet except my next-door neighbour (very much in the 12%) who is having a Johnny Cash marathon, but let us not allow this blog to become a bitter diatribe against him. Much. I'm trying to limit myself to one rant a week. Suffice to say, I'm writing this wearing earplugs and have also ordered a mixed tester pack of other earplugs, which as online purchases go, is unlikely to win any awards for aspirational glamour.

Mainly, on this sleepy, solitary weekend I have been thinking how healthy I would be if lived on my own. Things I do when on my own: take the dog on long, fast walks. Wander round town for hours on end until my feet get sore, even in M and S comfy old lady boots. Cook vats of dal. Eat 27 types of green vegetable. Ok, maybe the odd eclair, but it would mainly be a life of near-Gwyneth levels of worthiness. Of course, it would also be tragically boring. I would be stultifyingly virtuous, joylessly self-absorbed and permanently anxious. This would kill me long before all the rillettes and crisps and wine will. In the meantime, it's pleasant for a couple of days: I mean, I thought I would love a bit of monastic me time, but I find I've already more or less reached my limit. Everything is frighteningly tidy and all the washing up is done, I am not scrabbling to finish my work and I have already taken the bins out. Dull.

Here, look, this is not dull:

This Sablon shop has recently changed their window; until recently it featured half a giraffe (front half) and a rather amazing snake skeleton under a glass dome. This is another audacious combo. Where do you go from here? Full T-Rex? How about a giant boa constrictor in the act of swallowing a half springbok?

This is all I have for you. My brain feels like someone has wrapped it up in damp, mothball scented cotton wool. My imagination is in a Swiss sanatorium in extended convalescence. All my words have vanished and I have all the verve of a panda recently imported to chilly Belgium in a DHL lorry. Let's see what tomorrow brings.

How was your weekend?