Friday, 31 October 2014

Forty days: Pt 13 (Hallowe'en)


My spirit animal.

Also, check out the face of the pumpkin's creator, forced to attend a patisserie workshop this afternoon:

Bursting with joy. Like a cat forced to wear a Santa suit, his face says "you may smile now, but later I will kill you as you sleep".

Actually, I think it was less the workshop and more shock and disapproval at having to make those cakes which contained large chunks of pumpkin. I have just tried to eat a piece and .. no. Really not. Mmm, cake cake cake OH HOLY LORD NO A SOGGY LUMP OF PUMPKIN GET IT OUT OF MY MOUTH.

These guys know trouble when they see it:

The bad news: we found a dead mouse next to the fridge and I still have so much work I could cry and L has lost his €120 annual tram pass and I shouted and it's a public holiday tomorrow so none of the shops are open and there is no food in the house except 2kg of pumpkin cake. 

The good news: the children are at a Hallowe'en sleepover at the Science Museum ALL NIGHT PRAISE THE BABY NATHAN. When we dropped them off, the lady who was taking their names had her clipboard balanced on a flayed guinea-pig, on a table strewn with dried shark heads, pickled snakes, bones and a brain in a jar. I reckon they'll have a good time. I am going to bed with my book on Iceland and a cup of tea and will do my sodding work in the morning whilst contemplating the Liberty print Nikes my perfidious elder son told me were "too young" for me.  

My main observation on the first 13 days of this process is that making any plan to write/achieve anything remotely coherent and meaningful is laughable and that this might be my philosophical take-home for turning forty. "Take-home", ugh, I sound like I am facilitating your break-out group at a team building exercise in a conference centre in Surrey. Come, let us build an egg cradle from office supplies together then feed back on what we learnt*.

(*Did I ever tell you the story of how once during one of our - competitive, obv - team building exercises in the bad old law days, one of my colleagues actually HIRED A SPEEDBOAT to get ahead of the competition? That happened.)

(I now feel slightly nostalgic for the days of team building "retreats" to Mediterranean hotels that serve cava for breakfast. You don't get that when you're freelance.)

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Forty days: Pt 12 (the half-term shuffle)

I tell you what goes really well with a huge, time-pressured research task. UNSUPERVISED PUMPKIN CARVING. As dusk falls.

"So, uh, you're fine out here? In the gathering darkness? With your giant collection of knives? Good"

These children were clearly never taught the golden BOTH HANDS BEHIND THE CUTTING EDGE rule by Geoff "Mad Baz" Easton, Quaker school's terrifying woodwork teacher (each lost finger = 500 lines*). Actually, they probably did a better job without me resentfully grappling with my uncooperative laptop as I try to download Pinterest pumpkin templates. Try attaching a fecking template of that fecking snowman from Frozen to a SWEDE, Pinterest, like we used in my childhood (every year, we, the children of the Northern England 1970s emerge from the woodwork to assert that there were no pumpkins north of Watford until 1990 and bemoan our childhood deprivation. This year will be no different).

Only one small wound.

I am Quite Stressed. I had to go and have a posh lunch all by myself for a review at lunchtime, which should be lovely, and is certainly not a thing I should complain about, poor me and my many exquisite courses, but I had no time and too much to do and unsupervised children and having a posh lunch by yourself is just weird. On a good day you can pretend to be an icy Marlene Dietrich sort of cove, but when you are klutzy and blotchy and poorly dressed and when you keep flailing stuff onto the floor, the Marlene Dietrich illusion evaporates and you are just an idiot dropping a tempura prawn into someone's handbag (that wasn't today, but it did happen once and it so could have been today). The tweedy man sitting near me kept telling me how rejouissant (pleasing, uplifting) it was to watch me eat, which wasn't at all unnerving or creepy. Then the chef asked me for my card and the only things in my handbag were some fragments of shredded tissue, dog shit bags and a tampon.

Low points: either the dog deciding its own bed was sexually irresistible, or coughing so much I had to retch in the sink and in doing so, banging my head really hard on the tap giving myself a massive forehead lump. The neighbour's free jazz stylings to "Small Town Boy" on the saxophone weren't great either.

High point: the buttery, buttery linguine with white truffle wasn't too shabby. OH POOR ME. POOR POOR ME.

I need to go back to my neglected research task now. I'm still missing one innovative office offering.

(*it was actually 'columns' in Quaker school because non-conformism)

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Forty days: Pt 11

A nicer picture than yesterday's, this.

It's nice to have the old, world-weary, threadbare dog back, even though he has just been sick on the kitchen floor (presumably a result of well-concealed effervescence of joy at our return). We also discovered tonight that he is violently opposed to lunges. Obviously, it has taken five years cohabitation with him to discover that because I am more likely to build a scale model of the Cutty Sark out of unicorn horn parings than do a lunge, but the children festered on the sofa all day and did not get dressed, so had an early evening burst of excess energy.

Topics covered today:

- tortoise favela maintenance (necessary, overdue)

- chicken escape (constant, single culprit)

- competition law (much as ever, antitrusty)

- the worst Pokémons (Magikarp, Snorlax "all those useless pieces of metal", discuss)

- the desirability of a child attending a Halloween patisserie workshop (very desirable)

- innovative office facilities in London and Brussels (no knowledge, knowledge must be acquired very rapidly)

- parsnips (no) (not even roasted, no) (especially not in soup)


- 1 meeting

- 1 "conference call" (ugh)

- 2 invoices issued

- 1 bill paid (cancelling out both invoices)

- 1 pan of brownies

- 1 hotel review

- reduced face picking

- only 2 people actively, visibly revolted by my cough


- Dinner (many films pierced)

- Realised Cos shroud dress covered in mysterious, apparently food, crap during meeting

- Dread-inducing outstanding work mound undiminished

- New unsightly nose buboe from scratchy Eurostar loo roll

- Most other stuff

God, I am boring. Tomorrow I have to go for a fancy arse lunch ON MY OWN (I'm trying to make that sound more exciting than it is). I'll try and spin something out of that.

Your Wednesday?

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Forty days Pt 10 (Ten Amazing Beauty Tips)

I think (hope, pray) that today is the worst I will look for this full forty days* and in the spirit of forty days perestroika I am GOING TO SHOW YOU. I do not care any more.

I actually look better sans wig, frighteningly. Maybe the giant pale dome is distracting.

(double chin cleverly concealed in folds of giant scarf, pro tip)

If you wish to look this fantastic, and who wouldn't, this is my routine:

1. Totally fail to get your eyebrow tattoos topped up in a timely fashion and wait until they fade to 1996's Brighton cowboy beauty salon orange, apparently-drawn-by-a-toddler catastrophe, the only eyebrow that never fades.

2. Get sick, so sick, sicker than you've been for several years.

3. Need to wake up at 4am to top up your Lemsip levels. Walk into a wall in confusion.

4. Rub your weepy, tired eyes repeatedly for several days until they swell up in pink lidded lashless confusion (ed's note: this is not very different to their normal state).

5. Fail to find any tissues for most of the day and be reduced to wiping nose with scratchy kitchen roll and terrible grey sandpaper Eurostar loo roll, ow ow ow.

6. Start absent-mindedly picking at the corner of your lips for no good reason with your extra sharp fingerclaws until they bleed. Then do it again repeatedly.

7. Pick at a tiny spots on your chin and nose with your sharp fingerclaws until they get much bigger and proliferate.

8. Consume only Lemsip, Ribena, gingerbread dinosaur, wine and feebly gummed Cheese & Onion crisps for two days.

9. Do not wear any make up, except some dried up gel eyeliner that your weepy, irritated eyes have mainly cried off.

10. Fail to bring any emollient/lip balm/moisturiser away with you except some dodgy fish scented day cream (again, this is not so different to normal regime, except there is usually some crappy lip salve in a drawer somewhere).

(I don't know how you can get a nose that shiny. I think I am just blessed, sorry)

(* I think I might actually look worse now than an hour ago, but it's marginal.)

I have a law meeting tomorrow. I'll have to get up an hour earlier to start layering on Secret Camouflage and mineral powder. Actually, I should probably start tonight.

How do you achieve your enviable look?

Monday, 27 October 2014

Forty Days: Pt 9 (Goat Party Interlude)

My gmail status has been "GOAT PARTY" for weeks (I forget), but for once, today, it is actually appropriate. "Goats are very healing," a nice lady said on Twitter and here's hoping because I am still sooo ill. This rhino that thinks it is a goat is definitely healing.

But enough self-pity! On with the GOAT PARTY:

(Wondered if this might be my father's bearded spirit animal)


Yeah hai, pass over the goat nuts thxbai

(I might be a sheep)

Hai, ur coat haz a flavour

I have been going to the Cotswold Farm Park since before the children were born and now look at them, unashamedly the oldest in the rabbit petting area.

(The rabbit on the right is rolling its rabbit eyes and thinking, "yeah, everybody likes the fucking leopard bunny, the grandstanding asshole"). 

No need to fuck up your sacro-iliac pushing them around on tiny tractors any more and it no longer requires the skill set of Kofi Annan to get them out of the gift shop ("Do you want a hamburger?" "Yes" "Then put down that crap pencil sharpener and get in the car" "Ok"). Then we went to the pub and they can fetch their own lime and soda and crisps and no one writhes around like a furious conger eel or requires a full cabaret of entertainment if the food takes more than 3 minutes. Big children are brilliant. Yes, you may tell me it won't last, I'm fully aware of that, but I am appreciating the moment, like the zen mindfulness wizard I am (ha ha ha ha ha ha) (ha ha ha ha ha) (ha ha) (ha).

We are leaving in the morning. No more Walkers crisps, no more goat parties, no more sightings of the Bamford's fancy helicopter taking Lady Bamford to sell overpriced linen nick-nacks, no more bat poo on my socks, gratuitous giant fires and teaching the children to drive the Landrover round the field. No more giant rat in the woodpile and no more ballet of stupid bluebottles in every sink. Well, for a while. But soon clean pants (didn't bring enough) and the lukewarm welcome of the ouipette! It's enough to gladden any Lemsip addled heart. 

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Forty days: Pt 8 (Sick)

Jesus, I am too sick for the Internet tonight, I have been poisoned by my own disgusting crumble (my stepmother accidentally bought gluten free flour which I can only assume was made from finely milled silica sachets since it made a crumble as dry and dusty as the Sahara, regardless of the cavalier, Nigel Slater pints of butter I poured hopelessly into the mixture). I have also succumbed to the twin dangers of Strepsil and Lemsip abuse and my head is swimming and I have an Annoying Cough, the kind where you don't sound quite sick enough to elicit sympathy, just really wind people up.

Today: nothing. Lots and lots of nothing. It was grey and damp with buffeting clouds, fat disconsolate pigeons sitting on fence posts and dog walkers bundled up in many layers trudging along the verges. We have been bamboozled by the clock change all day, dozy and hungry at the wrong times, drifting through the kitchen grazing on inappropriate foods, boiling the kettle, boozing and asking each other if it can really only be 9am.

The cousins left early and we went for a short, uneventful walk and a short uneventful bike ride, failed to make cider (vetoed by my father even though the kit was his birthday present), made atrocious crumble, picked a few carrots and generally festered, each in our own corner. I read the paper and my tawdry book, watched Strictly and played backgammon with my stepmother and had a scalding, blissful Radox bath watching night draw in (horribly early). The children mainly did Minecraft, obviously, ate gingerbread shapes and repeatedly unplugged the router for reasons that are entirely opaque to me.

It would have been absolutely delightful if I weren't sick and even being sick, it had that lovely childlike quality where you aren't expected to organise anything and people provide you with foods and you just submit docilely to whatever the grown ups decide, which is a treat at very-nearly-forty. Now it is cold in the bedroom and slightly damp, so cold you have to huddle fast under the quilt (I haven't managed to get undressed yet, a rookie error) and everything smells of woodsmoke and outside an owl is hooting quite angrily and it is time for me to sleep.

I do not have any new pictures for you today except a picture of some poo we found on the hill, which I photographed in the hope my father could identify it ("deer", but he could be bluffing, he's a very convincing liar). I'll spare you that. Here instead is his horse sculpture that he mistakenly bought instead of buying me a miniature Shetland pony (easy mistake). I appear to have used some weird filter accidentally: I have a new phone, having left the old one in a taxi last week, and I rather loathe it, it is patronising and obstructive.

Tomorrow, we have another whole day here but it is ok, we are going to the Cotswold Farm Park so I can 100% guarantee you pictures of goats.

Forty days: Pt 7 (Tetanus Towers)

I am writing this from bed, as per last post recommendations. It's the warmest place here, unless you join the squabbling throng in the 3 inches in front of the AGA. Until recently, this would not have been possible, the writing from bed thing, because normally I would have had to be nursing a dreadful coffee in McDonalds in Stratford Upon Avon if I wanted wifi, but now Tetanus Towers has been graced with the intermittent miracle that is BT Infinity.  I'm not actually sure how I feel about it, but downstairs all four cousins are serenely setting fire to each other's houses on Minecraft (? Is that even a thing you do on Minecraft?) and I'm in bed, so I'm not going to start pontificating about the joys of the disconnected life. Also, it's not 100% reliable, so I'd better hurry before a goat chews through it.

Also new at Tetanus Towers, THIS:

A ridiculous baby cockerpoo, belonging to my brother (reluctantly) and family (ecstatically).

"It looks like a mop head" said my father, slightly peevishly, on the phone before I arrived "getting progressively dirtier and dirtier." She's a very sweet mophead with razor sharp tiny teeth and an understandable fear of sheep. I only wish the weepette were here to disapprove of her sorrowfully. One day.

I suppose today is about the cousins. Every couple of months, my boys wistfully ask when we are next going to granddad's to do "apple pigging" and make "apple grumble" (English spelling still tops, chiz) and see their cousins, my niece and nephew. It's not very often -  we rarely come more than once a year - so when we do all manage to get together, the anticipation is great. Every time, I wonder if they'll still get on, whether my niece (6 months younger than L,  but so immensely grown up as both a girl and a Londoner and taller than me, let alone him) will tolerate all the laddishness; whether my nephew (a year younger than F) will feel left out. Every time, so far, the magic has worked: after a few minutes awkwardness - the bashful hellos, the kisses dodged, the monosyllables - something happens. The place, the familiarity of it all, the traditions (barn of deadly machinery, drain full of frogs, tasks imposed by my father for small sums of money), the dead animals and the apples and my father shouting and the constant danger of impaling oneself on something horribly sharp in the manner of one of those cautionary documentaries they used to show us at primary school does its stuff and they turn into a gang, again.

Gang apple pigging (did anyone read that picture book Apple Pigs as a child? I loved it):



Half-gang at the funfair (4 "rides" the size of a paper handkerchief manned by furious teenagers) in Shipston on Stour:

Incidentally who the fuck decorates these things:

What? What???

Thank goodness for cousins, both familiar and strange, never quite as annoying as your siblings. Did you have that with cousins? I did with some of mine (better still, they had ponies). 

It is now late and I must sleep for I have the Sick and tomorrow my father is taking us on a forced march and later, we are planning to make cider. We have all the kit and everything. I can't imagine what could possibly go wrong. 

Friday, 24 October 2014

Forty days: Pt 6 (Science)

Today Stylist tweeted this list of "Ten Things That Are Scientifically Proven to Make You Happier" and they are egregious nonsense. I am already 10% less happy for clicking on it. Porridge? PORRIDGE IS A LIE. Floral scents? Most unlikely. Exercise, ha ha ha.

Here is my list of 10 things that are scientifically proven to make me happier. It's science, people. You can't argue with science.

1. A Gail's cinnamon roll
The bastard child of a croissant and a proper Scandinavian kanelbullar, this is the best innovation in viennoiserie ever (do not talk to me about cronuts, I spit on your cronut). Scientists believe it can prolong life by up to 3 years.

2. Mildly evil gossip
A gossipy email from a friend relating some gripe or news titbit about a third party increases my happiness by precisely 37%.

3. A cancelled meeting
Who could fail to be delighted by this gift from the gods? The cancellation of a meeting causes a surge of oxytocin and a feeling of complete wellbeing.

4. When your lunch companion decides to have wine
And the afternoon slides into mutually enabling drunkenness. Bliss was it in that dawn (lunchtime) to be alive. Lunchtime wine corrects serotonin imbalances.

5.  Owl in a box
784% better than porridge. Scientific fact.

7. Gin
50cl of gin is bio-equivalent to watching images of tumbling adorable puppies whilst getting a deep tissue massage for 86 minutes.

8. Forgetting about this Tumblr.. 
....then remembering it and being delighted all over again.

9. Getting a seat on any form of public transport where getting a seat is not a given
Here I am, sitting, like a boss and unless you are old or pregnant or wearing a terrible Comptoir des Cotonniers dress I AM NOT MOVING, NONONO.

10. Getting into bed in the afternoon 
I cannot confirm or deny that I have done that today, but if I did, it would be because it induces deep healing on a cellular level. (I only had three small drinks) (they were tiny) (what is wrong with me)

What is scientifically proven to make you happier?

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Forty days: Pt 5 (I leave the house/country)

Today’s update comes to you from a delayed Eurostar (book launch party, then on to Tetanus Manor for a long weekend of examining vole cadavers). The composition of this Eurostar is:

96% Happy, boozed up Arsenal supporters shouting “YA CUNT” at each other. I know they won, but even so, they are astonishingly cheerful given that three of them have had their passports stolen, two their phones and one guy missed his train and had to buy a new ticket for €300. Oh, and another guy has just been operated on for skin cancer. I’m not eavesdropping deliberately, they are SHOUTING this stuff across the carriage. Ha, now they are talking about potty training their children, they are big softies really. Apparently two of them sit down when they pee to show their daughters what to do. YES THEY ARE STILL SHOUTING. I don’t know what’s happened to traditional masculinity, but I’m broadly in favour.

3.99% Men in suits pecking at Excel spreadsheets and trying to make vital sales conference calls to the background accompaniment of Arsenal songs (“YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO PUT ME ON MUTE, PAUL, PATCH ME IN AGAIN WHEN YOU GET TO THE PROJECTED QUARTERLIES”).

0.01% Me, trying to write December listings without a functioning internet. I have just braved the 35 potato-featured-man-deep queue at the bar to get a KitKat and a cup of tea, so my mood is vastly improved as against an hour ago, though I did nearly get into a fight with someone who tried to push in front of me. BRITISH PERSON ON THE EDGE, DANGER OF TUTTING. A man tried to push into the passport queue earlier and drowned in a tsunami of anglo-saxon disapproval. "Please don't jump the queue" said one woman in a loose tea dress, in a testy undertone. She was quite pink with the effort of assertiveness and suppressed strong emotion.

You were all very interesting on hospitality: if I asked you a question a day for forty days, I could probably end up quite significantly enlightened.  I LOVE Nimble’s suggestion about putting wine and food on the table within reach (also The Auntologist’s advice to take half a benzo struck a chord - if only I could employ this to combat my horse terror - I had an awful lesson today with many tears and got shouted at by instructor for being utterly pathetic - but I think horses definitely count as ‘heavy machinery’).

We are nearly there. I got changed in the highly salubrious Eurostar lavatories before realising I was actually arriving an hour earlier than I thought and it was totally unnecessary. Party outfit scores highly on the "meh" scale (Eurostar lavatory selfie):

(On disembarking I took a packed Circle Line tube at rush hour and a man tapped me on the shoulder and asked if I wanted a seat, which gives you an idea of how flattering this dress is. Pregnant/sick/worthy of public transport pity dress. )

I will finish this post after I have been to this party and report back on whether I managed to talk to anyone.


Post-party report:

I am now eating a burrito in my pyjamas in front of the telly (my father is not in his house, which makes such a thing far easier, otherwise I would be having to make coherent conversation and eating an abstemious selection of home grown apples and nuts) and that was an EXCELLENT party, with excellent snacks (arancini and meatballs and whole plates of toast) and small delicious quince based drinks (strong ones, if my limbs are to be trusted, I have just slid down a whole flight of stairs, I reckon I will feel it in the morning) and several people who I knew enough to speak to and lots more I could just stare at in awe (Lynn Barber! Marian Keyes! Apparently also Will Self, but I looked in the wrong direction and missed him). General consensus: ageing is totally devoid of dignity, but possibly fun, in parts.

Too drunk to write more, having already fallen downstairs and lurched into bed fully dressed. Disgrace. Must do better tomorrow.

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

40 Days Pt 4

A Belgian submission for Drunk Furniture

Wednesday. It's last minute shit-we-forgot-the-geography-project night ("no, maybe don't include the Wikipedia cannabis page") and last minute Halloween biscuit night ("NO I WILL NOT REROLL THE ARSEING DALEKS THEY ARE FINE JESUS WHO PUT THE OVEN ON GRILL WELL THESE CAN GO STRAIGHT IN THE BIN??") and I am still in total neck spasm and keep having to stop writing to lie on the floor. On the upside, I didn't have to wear tights and uncomfortable shoes or speak to strangers with insufficient warning. I spent about ninety minutes in blissed out staring at the wall this morning. Then I ate a packet of Cadbury's Halloween novelty biscuits. A winner, overall.

Ok, tonight, perhaps you can help me out with a problem, which is something I feel I need to learn for the forthcoming decade.

My question is this: how do you get good at hospitality? By which I mean, how do you carry off having people round for food or to stay or whatever? I am shit at this - truly, so bad - and it's clearly a massive problem, because (i) I feel inadequate (ii) my children never see people other than family members at weekends so they will end up deeply flawed humans like me (iii) this is not how adults behave (iv) it's embarrassing (v) only 4 people will come to my funeral.

I mean,  I don't think it would surprise anyone to hear that I'm fairly introverted (see above: bliss of staring at wall). But I do like people (no, honestly) and I would like to be able to invite them into my house without dying of awkward. I rate myself on the hospitality scale somewhere around the deeply depressed lady who lodged me and my friend Kate on our gap year in Florence feeding us stewed radicchio in baleful silence. I don't have an incontinent cat and my house does have a lavatory door, but that's probably my only advantage over her.

I know the problem is that I make it all about me due to idiotic anxiety. I do know it is not about me. That is the whole point of hospitality. IT IS NOT ABOUT YOU. IT IS ABOUT YOUR GUESTS. But how does one achieve this zen-like state of welcoming the other? I have been to the homes of people who are considerably younger than me who can manage this. How? What is the secret? Have you cracked it? Does it come so naturally you don't even know how you do it?

More specifically:

- Simply having people round for their dinner: how does one approach this? Why do I make such a meal (ha ha) of it? The last time, I provoked a fight about GM crops, about which I didn't know I even had an opinion. It's not the food - I'm confident I could make something edible (not nice, but edible), but I would then hover and make anxious eyes rather than relaxing and pouring wine and laughing. Can you get better at it? How?

- If you know very disparate groups of people should you throw them together? How much effort do you then need to make if they are not gelling?

- Where should the line be drawn between not being the person who forces you to have the fourth pint of wine and seconds of pudding and being me, ie. too shy to offer anyone anything in case they feel obliged to accept, leading to feelings of deprivation and joylessness?

- What if all the glasses come out of your dishwasher looking as if they are filthy so you are ashamed to have people round and your children insist on putting them in the dishwasher when you are not looking?

- Where is the line between charmingly mismatched and 'student house disgusting stolen canteen plates'?

- How do you not get unmanageably sad when you invite people and they don't come?

- If they do come, HOW DO YOU MAKE THEM GO HOME?

These are all variants on the same question, I realise. Also, I sound a bit like a horrible man I met in group therapy who used to dissect every minute social encounter out loud in precisely this unhelpful fashion. HELP ME UNDERSTAND YOUR WAYS, people who are sociable. Or recommend a book I can read about it, fellow introverts.

NB: I am not planning a birthday party or anything, this is just a necessary life lesson.

Shit, M has just shown me this reconstruction of Tutankhamun and now NO ONE WILL EVER SLEEP AGAIN.

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

40 Days Pt 3

Shit, this was a stupid idea, my foblopo .. something. But failure and anticlimax seems to be a feature of forty according to many of yesterday's comments, so perhaps that's fitting.

Today was grisly, hail, rain, thunder and professional horrors (including a full day ordeal by DOUBLE SURPRISE POWERPOINT), faintly horrified to discover Hadley Freeman is only 36, when she has achieved so much. I always assumed she must be my age. This was also another day of Out, my ninth in a row, of which 7 involved 'talking to groups of strangers' (with a special mention for last Friday when I also left my phone in a taxi, adieu phone), I am no longer fit for that much time with so many people and my neck has seized up with tension and shit posture, like a badly taxidermied weasel. Quite frankly tonight, I got nuffink. Ah well. Perhaps some greater truth will emerge eventually? Some as yet indiscernible pattern? Hmm.

Also, let us share a thought for my father who texted disconsolately that he was "on an 11 hour guided tour of the Cartoon Museum without wine".

Clawing it back from the edge tonight:

- Dead Sea Salt bath (I just dumped the whole sachet in there, fuckit).

- The fact that we now have a functioning bath, albeit with brown water.

- Half an hour of Molesworth.

- Herbal tea (what the fuck. I have started drinking herbal tea again after a good ten years abstinence, I sort of hate myself. Not fruit teas though, there are limits).

- A KitKat (crap Belgian version, but needs must).

- Looking at fantasy elephant camp brochures.

- Sliding a gnarled crone hoof under the warm silky flank of the stupid dog who has exhausted himself fretting about thunder.

- This fantastically horrible, fascinating film about the worst prison in Russia.

- Possibly a hot water bottle.

What is your emergency head repair kit for shitweasel days? Obviously we can discount alcohol, which is taken as read.

This is my eldest son's solution to everything, see also here  and here and here and here. I'm going to get him to do me a special one for my birthday. 

Monday, 20 October 2014

40 days Pt 2: In Your Prime

You had some excellent ideas of forty things I could write about, but they sounded hard and requiring of thought and applicationOf course, the problem with this forty days thing is that you are not always in an articulate and reflective mood. Or indeed most of the time. Or, perhaps, ever. Today I have been on a 3 hour public transport trudge, given a TRULY APPALLING careers talk (I thought it was just a chat! It was a proper talk! Well, obviously it wasn't the way I did it, but it should have been) and also got into a fight about guitar lessons (middle class fight club, this).  Reflective mature wisdom 0 : shouting in the street 1.

In more relevant news, I have just finished reading this, which is out on Thursday.

I was very much pre-disposed to enjoy it, partly because I think India Knight can make any topic appealing (I actually burn with desire to buy all the beauty products she recommends and I mainly exfoliate with my own tears and a stick. In another life, she'd have been absolutely amazing in advertising) and partly because, thrillingly, I am in the acknowledgements, having given my expert advice on (i) wigs and (ii) eyebrows. But even if I weren't, it was a very jolly (well, maybe not the dementia and vaginal withering bits) and appropriate read for me at precisely this point. Before reading it, I thought it would be more of a style and beauty guide, but it's actually a cheery kind of guide to life in middle age, by turns briskly prescriptive, very funny and full of joy. It is mainly, and evangelically, about enjoying things and the bliss of small domestic delights, but not in a moony self-help way. What better message could there be?


New neuroses spawned: Feet 
Awful things may happen to my feet once I turn forty and ceaseless vigilance is apparently required. This is problematic because my feet are already genuinely revolting, full of bumpy, deformed, gnarled horrors. I might just have to cut them off at the ankle.

Existing neuroses reinforced: Teeth
I knew they were bastards and I knew it would only get worse. This confirms it.

Danger of turning into 'Hampstead Lady': ever present
- Grey Louise Brooks bob
- Shapeless, genderless, artfully folded Japanese garmentry
- Birkenstocks or brogues
Quite honestly, I aspire to look this put together, but it is beyond the pale. No five armed hunchbacked black shrouds from the Liberty Japanese Weirdness Room. No massive glasses. No angular jewellery. Step away from Hampstead Bazaar.

Insuperable problem: colour
"Black looks absolutely awful on almost everyone"
"Grey is the colour of fog, pigeons and mice"
This is 98% of my wardrobe out. Remaining: a green, patterned Issa dress that looks like one of those Magic Eye drawings and probably only covers one tit now, since it was bought at Maximum Insanity point. A one shouldered Jaeger red dress, also bought in a fugue state which I will never, ever wear. Something blue and a bit cheap looking with a grease stain that is impossible to get into due to complex layerage and whose belt I have lost. I need to do something about this. Without spending any money.

Frightening revelation: guinea pigs

Anyway, it is highly recommended.

My friend F on forty: "It had been the worst six months of my life and it was about to get even worse. Nadir of my life. Anyway. Forty. Worst birthday ever."

Do please continue to share your crappy forty stories.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

40 days: part 1

I am forty in forty days. Since one should never let a potential gimmick go unexploited on the Internet, I am going to try and post on every one of these forty days.

I am not going to try and detail forty things I have learned in my life so far. I quite enjoy reading those posts, but at this point in my life, if I am clear about anything, it is that I know pretty much fuck all. Nothing. I mean, I can make a béchamel and drive (badly) and sing Happy New Year in Mandarin. I can iron a shirt pretty well, but I could do that when I was 14 and I really don't have the chest for shirts. Beyond that, it's all grey areas. I like the idea of arriving at forty in a state of serene and purposeful sorted-ness, but barring some kind of miracle, it seems unlikely.

I thought for a while about doing forty regrets or forty mistakes, which I could definitely muster, but it seemed a bit of a downer. Then I thought I could do 40 things I still want to do, but jesus, the pressure. Imagine that list staring back at me in 5 years time with only 2 items ticked off ("make a coffee and walnut cake", perhaps, and "own more than two pairs of tights without holes in"). How depressing would that be?

So I don't really know what I'm going to do. Post something halfway interesting, I hope, without the crutch of ups, downs or percentages. Is there anything in particular you'd like to read? Do not fear, I am not giving up funny for forty days, like some kind of hideous lenten penance.

As for today, my father came to visit and tonight we had steak-frites and too much wine and a ceremoniously flambéed tarte tatin in Brasseries Georges, where the average customer age is 80 and they are all very cheery despite varying levels of infirmity. It is thus the perfect place to feel good about your advancing years and the salvation of creature comforts and he told me again - as he did when I was at my very lowest (so far! There's always time to sink lower!) about how when he was forty everything was shit in his life. I love this story, it's the adult fairy story I never tire of hearing. All is not lost! The losing dice are not tossed, the bridges aren't all crossed. Maybe in 30 years time I too can have okapi petting privileges?

Now I have to go to bed because it's late and I have to give a careers talk tomorrow. Shut up, I can hear you laughing. Sssh. I know all about careers.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Some Reasons I Should Not Go Out

1. Age and its attendant increase in irascibility and decrease in inhibition is turning me into a public transport vigilante. I am irritated beyond all reason at the insistence of the commuters of Brussels on standing in a bovine fashion in front of the opening doors of buses, trams and metros, thereby impeding the egress of other passengers (me) and slowing the whole process down (I remember my friend B complaining about this when he lived in Brussels, so at least when I am setting my eyes to 'murder', I can think of him and smile). So irritated, indeed, am I, that I have started telling them to get out of the way. Seriously, people, you live in a capital city, albeit a very small one. BEHAVE. It would only take another couple of journeys in sub-optimal conditions for me to resort to shoving. I know, because I have previous with this, having once - heavily pregnant - lightly kicked a man on the platform at Liverpool Street. I can't really remember the circumstances or what had angered me (hormones), but he turned round and gave me a massive shove in the chest and then I went all "HOW DARE YOU HIT A PREGNANT WOMAN" on him, which was a bit unfair given I had started it. Oh god, I was a horrible, horrible person when pregnant. But even un-pregnant, I should apparently avoid public transport.

2. I started crying at a busker today. She was playing known tear-jerker Ne Me Quitte Pas (albeit quite erratically) on a violin, but I have also started to well up at accordions and even the man with the horrifying violin/trumpet hybrid, though that is through despair not sentimentality.

3. I have not lost any of my crazy person attracting mojo.

4. Outside is expensive. Especially because I have a tendency to buy unreasonable quantities of cake regardless of available disposable income (none, currently) just because I AM OUT and it must be celebrated.

5. If I go out in the car (ugh), I spend the entire journey in abject terror, partly because I have mislaid my driving licence so if anything happens I am in the shit, and partly because I AM A TERRIBLE DRIVER. Not dangerous, just dithery and pathetic and easily freaked out. Yesterday a policeman tried to make me move the car (they were filming a film at the hairdresser's!) and I pretended I couldn't drive and told him he would have to move it for me, hahahahahahaha. Shit.

6. Bad things happen, such as the terrible, awful meal we had last weekend from which I am still suffering (pretty sure it was One Legged Street Pigeon Yassa, not Poulet), or being scared rigid yesterday by mentally disturbed horse Cartolino and his enduring terror of doorways (Horse lady: why are you going slowly, go faster Me: I AM VERY SCARED. This basically encapsulates all our exchanges this autumn). NB and wholly unrelated, there is a horse at the stables that is actually called 'No Name'. Someone has a sense of humour.

7. Key incidents.

8. Outside is cold and rainy and I am stiff from full body terror on Cartolino and crampy from the Pigeon Yassa and I like inside. Inside has hot water bottles and Yorkshire Gold and you'd have to go a hell of a long way in Belgium to get a  Yorkshire Gold teabag and even if you did find one, they would have sat it in a too-small goblet of lukewarm water on a tiny metal tray with a speculoos and a tiny plastic pod of Belgian Millac Maid.

Reason I should go out:

I have watched a succession of soul-shrivellingly bad romantic comedies on Netflix, culminating in the shame-sodden (both participants and viewer) 'What To Expect When You're Expecting) and also because I cannot really remember how to speak to someone to whom I am not related.


You? Out or in?

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Up your blowhole

Wot wot.


I can't leave the skin at the corner of my mouth alone and now my face looks like a festering mass of corruption for NO REASON except that I can't stop pulling at my dry skin. There was nothing wrong with it in the first place! I have created a festering mouth problem through sheer neurosis. I have just made it bleed again whilst typing this and am mopping up the blood with a green Post-it like some kind of savage.

(God, I look rough. That picture is an exact representation of my mental and physical state)

My younger child has a bad back, which is a strange ailment for a ten-year-old and has been up in the night pleading for Calpol (see haggardness/grey skin tone of above photo) and required 3 days off school, which in turn has meant much more catering than usual ("er, we've got .. bread? And this old kale I bought by mistake") and wall-to-wall repeats of Gadget Man. I have been fretting with increasing intensity about him and today took him off to see an orthopedic specialist. It did not help much, though he had an x-ray and nothing is broken, so there's that. But it still hurts and he is very much not himself. I no like.

Filling yesterday. Awful, though it started with a very gentle injection, so mad props to the tiny dentist for that. He is one of those who works in utter silence, which is generally my preferred option (informed consent, hell no thank you, please treat me like a malleable halfwit), but in this case made for a couple of unnerving interludes where he would do something, then sit for a minute in utter silence, during which I assumed he was contemplating some catastrophic error he had just made.

The combination of the two things above mean my limping finances are now ready to be put out of their misery with a swift shot to the head. Yes, some of it will eventually be reimbursed in this nirvana of socialised medicine, but until then, who the fuck knows. Gruel?

VAT deadline = am surrounded by horrible scraps of paper and looking for many more missing scraps of paper and wondering where I put that paper file into which I put all the pieces of paper with which I simply did not wish to deal. This is my favourite so far:

Eh? Stoppache? 

I am harbouring Work Resentments and am now exhausted by a chestful of bad feelings.

New idiot tortoise is still not eating. I put her in front of likely tortoise foods daily. Nothing doing.

I had to lend L the proper camera today for a school project, due to him waiting until five minutes to what-the-fuck-why-haven't-you-left-yet o'clock this morning to tell me he needed one. I am TERRIFIED he will break or lose it.

I got into bed ten minutes ago (it's 15:39) and this really cannot end well.


Hmmm, I'm not feeling very "up", I confess. However:

Text update: "de caméra is safe and soond"

Horizontality update: I managed to get out of bed by 16:40.

Eldest child, through supreme effort of parental nagging and over-investment has managed 8 out of 10 in his Dutch test. This is quite the exploit, hard as that is to imagine.

My daft Brussels/London/Paris in a day gig was actually quite blissful - quiet trains, lovely meals, booze. My only regret was that the Eurostar put me in business class and I couldn't remotely take advantage of all the free stuff, due to already being up to my eyeballs in food and beverages. Frustrated, I filled my handbag with small bottles of water and magazines until I could barely carry it and eyed the complimentary champagne sadly. Props also to the Eurostar for serving a Scotch Egg as an afternoon snack, which my French fellow passengers eyed in much the same way as if they had been offered a battered dead mouse. I had lunch in London with a charming man off Twitter who had no apparent homicidal tendencies and declared me "not predatory" (high praise indeed) and dinner in Paris with my sister. I still can't quite get my head around the fact my sister - the erstwhile space cadette - lives in Paris and is an adult with a job. I think this is quite common among elder siblings.

Sundari at around 1 minute 20 here.

I am not especially busy and am doing useful things like reading books and thinking (ha, staring into space) instead of hustling for more work. Of course, I am temperamentally incapable of hustling for work, so I might as well make a virtue of it. I have a book to write after all (yeah, shit, I should get on with that, I suppose).

Two fun events in London in the next month to look forward to, plus a trip to Tetanus Manor at half term, mixed blessing that that is, where hopefully we will get to meet my niece and nephew's new puppy as well as whatever array of rotting carrion my father has laid on for us.

Eldest child has just spontaneously bought me a packet of Maltesers! Awwww. This might very well be the best thing to happen to me all week.

A picture

Current levels of activity:


55% tired
10% oh god, so tired
10% Maltesers
10% toothpaste stains
10% tedious nagging harpy
5% limp, neglected kale guilt