Saturday, 6 December 2014


A long overdue update. It was this or editing some copy written by German people. Or, you know, all the other work I should be doing or that awful pile of unopened envelopes, but I have chosen you.

Things that have happened:

1. Venice

Was - of course - wonderful, grey and damp and empty and enchanting. Also, a pandoro costs FOUR EUROS there! If I had known I would have brought an extra pandoro/pannetone suitcase. We did not manage to see any shrivelled fingers, but it did not matter because there was wine and cicchetti and spritz and hours of getting lost down weird picturesque dead end streets and taking pictures of furious, child-eating seagulls.

2. London
I went to London on Tuesday for a really lovely lunch (Moro, pheasant, trifle and delicious booze), plus various admin type things but made the mistake of straying into and around Oxford Street looking for Christmas child-tat. THE HORROR, the heat, the noise, the piles of undesirable gew-gaws, the naked consumer ghastliness. I was feeling intensely Christmassy (a day of jollity will do that) and it nearly sucked all my joy out. Also, and heartbreakingly, Muffinski's in Covent Garden, where I have been getting muffins for years even when they were the Canadian Muffin Company and occupied a corner site on Brewer Street opposite Raymond's Revue Bar has GONE. I know you can't get excited about muffins, but these were amazing, I do not have the vocabulary to explain them, they were sort of healthy wholegrain but not too wholegrain and just ludicrously delicious. I have tried to reproduce them and totally failed. I am muffin bereft.

I tried to do some Christmas shopping, despite the heat and horror, but reviewing my purchases, I seem to have acquired only a selection of jelly sea creatures from Cybercandy, two pairs of tights (for myself) and a packet of David Shrigley playing cards (damn you, Magma, you pit of temptation). I have since acquired some caps (the kind you throw on the street when you are a delinquent pre-teen) and some juggling balls that look like poo. Can I just give up now?

3. Smashing
One of my London errands was to collect a gingerbread house kit to be photographed, which was slightly eccentric. On my return we had to build the house (stupid) and decorate it (even stupider) then smash it with a hammer for the photographer. This last bit was bloody brilliant though the dog made a repeated nuisance of himself barking and trying to eat shards of gingerbread. Last night we found him furtively trying to eat the decorative Christmas tree that came with the house which he had recovered from the kitchen radiator and it took two of us to prise his reluctant jaws open to remove it. Since then I have put the rest out for the birds, who are ignoring it. A magpie had a go yesterday but he has not been back. I imagine it will survive all the depredations of winter an emerge unscathed and just as unappetising in the spring.

4. Infirmity
I already have to go back to the dentist on Monday because the tooth he filled when I went very recently is now an ouchy, sensitive no-go zone. I don't imagine he has a satisfait ou remboursé guarantee, sadly. My back and neck are also in permanent crockedness and I would sell a kidney for a really good deep tissue massage. Presumably this is just my age. Are there any crackpot remedies I can try for my shitty joint aches? Fish oil? Virgin's blood? Anyone? I have also woken up with some kind of painful eye infection. All the middle-aged fun. 

5. Owls
F came home yesterday and mentioned in passing "the cook brought his barn owl into class today". Which, hang on, stop right there child and provide me with MUCH MORE DETAIL. This is the gulag, not Hogwarts, but apparently the school cook (I am already sort of surprised he's not a Sodhexo mechanised drone that hovers above the canteen dispensing food pellets) has raised a barn owl ('chouette effraie' in French which is lovely) from a hatchling until now, when it is 8. It flies free range around his house and sometimes he opens the window and lets it have a little go around the park. The owl came to their class twice, tried to bite several people and pooed on someone's desk. Honestly, if this had happened when I was at primary school it would have been the biggest event of my educational career. F seemed rather blasé about it. Where is his sense of wonder?

6. Mourning
Queen Fabiola, she of the magnificent coiffure, has died. The country is in a paroxysm of mourning and I watched several hours of obsequious coverage (plainly prepared years in advance) last night and have purchased the souvenir edition of Le Soir today. One of the main points of debate last night after the announcement seemed to be whether they should postpone Monday's planned national strike as a gesture of respect. The consensus was no: it was, perhaps, what she would have wanted. I expect moving scenes of slow, solemn tyre burning.

How have you been? It is St Nicolas today, so be careful no one puts you in a sack and kicks you to Spain.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back! Your various trips sound very interesting. I do agree about the Christmas consumer madness - it sucks the joy out of any festive spirit, and is not, I suspect what we are meant to be concentrating on. I've decided that for the planet, the social good, and my purse, recycling is best. All gifts are being acquired from various op shops that sell second hand goodies in aid of good causes. Feel-good factor somewhat restored!
Heather (NZ)

Kimberly said...

A very warm belated birthday and welcome back. Things are going well here in New Jersey, USA. Except for the weather, which looks like it came from a dreary chapter of Dickens. I had a work week full of training and today my brain is not cooperating with anything more than "wrap gifts."

Anonymous said...

Welcome back Waffle. Perhaps the fact that Delhaize in Braine L'Alleud actually had food on the shelves this afternoon, a 'working' day before the strike, was a gseture of respect. Who knows..

Anonymous said...

Welcome home, dear Waffle. Good to have you back.
Ash :-)

Betty M said...

Fish oil is the only thing in the " natural remedies" category that my esteemed king of all the rheumatologists said had any evidence at all to work on aching joints.

I have zero Xmas / other winter timed festivities prep done at all. Not likely to get any done either. Children will be cross but will be valuable life lesson. No?

ellen kirkendall said...

I think the juggling balls will be a great success. Sadly I recommend nothing for grouchy joints but yoga. Nothing else has worked well for me. No magic.

Lara Kratz said...

Welcome back! So glad to hear Venice was lovely and full of wicked seagulls. If I ever go, I shall remember to take a pannetone-dedicated suitcase.

"Naked consumer ghastliness" just about sums up my yuletide experience so far this year. This is my first real go at trying to navigate the realm of Christmas Toy Shopping in all of it's high-gloss, heavily-marketed horror, and it's reduced me to a quivering nervous wreck. Fortunately my son is of an age that the wrapping paper and boxes will probably be of more interest than the gifts (current favorite toys: spoons, dust mop, and, much to his dismay, the dog) so the stakes are not high, but the prospect of what my future Christmases will entail… Exactly how much kicking is involved in getting sent to Spain for the holidays? Because it might be worth it.

But I have taken pruning shears to the giant wall of holly along the side of the house and stuck the resulting prickly mess on the mantle, which was very satisfying. And the bakery down the street has started making Stollen and Buche de Noel. I'm a firm believer in the power of baked goods in restoring one's faith in the holiday season.

ganching said...

Good to see you back. Do you feel a little bereft to have stopped daily blogging? I can see the Light at the end of the Tunnel and I am beginning to wonder if it will be a huge relief to stop or perhaps I will miss it.

I have made a Christmas cake which was a complete disaster, dry and with bullet like bits of fruit, and it too will be going out for the birds or, as this is London, the squirrels. Today I am considering the horror of Westfield in Stratford.

Waffle said...

Ganching - I'll miss yours enormously and should have said earlier how much I enjoy them. I was initially quite relieved, then a bit puzzled, with that feeling like when you've forgotten to do something but you're not sure what..

Jane in SF said...

Welcome back! I go along with the fish oil/omega 3 supplement and Vitamin D. Apparently everyone is low in Vit D, even those of us in Norther California and it is essential although I can't remember why.
I had a sprained collarbone earlier in the year which has come back but I can't remember what they told me to do first time around to cure it. Should I go to the doc about my collarbone or my memory?

Anonymous said...

The best thing I've ever tried was Royal Jelly and I suspect that only worked because I felt the word 'royal' would stand in good stead. Then I read the story by Roald Dahl with the same name and decided..yuck, no.

Anonymous said...

Dear Waffle - welcome back!
I ran out of 'natural remedies' for my clutch of pains, and then was given a copy of Dr John Sarno's book 'Healing back pain'. As a rational scientist I was deeply sceptical, but immediately recognised myself in his case studies....and it's changed my life. Really recommend having a look.
Alison (longtime reader, longtime lurker)

Margaret said...

I take chondroitin without glucosamine--or maybe it's the opposite. It doesn't seem to work. Exercise and managing stress would likely work but hahahahahahahahahaha.

Belated happy birthday, by the way! I've been snowed under by work and anxiety and didn't read every day of the Forty Days so now I have a nice backlog of posts to look forward to!

Xtreme English said...

I found a video of a swimming owl. now that i know you're back, I'll send it to you!! So glad you're back!!

Jo said...

Bah Humbug to all Christmas shopping I say. We got a stray dog from the RSPCA. Best Christmas present ever. Oh, and someone gave us a budgie. How more festive can you get?

I am sorry to say this, but all my middle age aches and pains have completely disappeared since I started lifting quite small weights at the gym three times a week. I know, it's an appalling solution. I only do it because one of my friends makes me, and I love her and am scared of her in equal measure.. but all those machines at the gym that look like instruments of torture? I am now convinced they are my insurance against a future hip replacement. Never thought I would find myself endorsing such a thing.

Kitty Ballistic said...

Glucosamine works for Mr Me, and I take flaxseed oil rather than fish oil (veggie-friendly, y'see). I have heard that pineapple juice is good for joint aches, but as pineapple is vile stuff, I have not tried it.

Light weights will also help - yes, sadly, exercise is recommended. You could do some exercises with weights in your own home using tins of beans (or similar) rather than having to visit a gym. They probably grow pineapples in gyms, I wouldn't put it past them.

Anonymous said...

Dear Waffle,
Welcome back from Venice.
Thank you for choosing your readers over editing German-written copy or opening those bloody envelopes. Having spent a morning avoiding editing some texts written by Spaniards without a good grasp of English and having hidden my own stack of envelopes (yay, another tax fine!) under some books, I sympathise.
For your joints, I would recommend fish oil capsules, which are also good for boosting Vitamin D levels and general wellbeing. I was prescribed them (actually, they were called "Omega 3 Gold capsules") before the summer to improve skin tone, took them religiously for a couple of months combined with weekly massages and then promptly forgot about them as soon as my 10-massage voucher ran out. I'm now trying to work myself up towards taking them again. Apparently they work better if you take them first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, although that may not be remotely scientific. Skin tone didn't change much, but that's probably the fault of my delicate Celtic complexion and not the fish or their livers.
As for aches and pains, at the risk of being a pain in the neck (sorry), I would really recommend joining a Zumba class with a high-energy teacher to stimulate endorphin production and move all the muscles your body forgot existed. After a lifetime of nearly no exercise I started going to classes at the weekend a few months ago. I now go for the mental workout as much as the physical exercise. There is something very exhilarating (yes, really) about learning to coordinate opposite limbs to painfully bad Latin American lyrics while surrounded by dozens of equally bewildered people trying to do the same thing, especially if you spend the rest of the week in a civilised seated position staring at a screen. All you can do is laugh at the sheer ridiculousness of it all, which is probably what makes it so therapeutic. But then, I don't get out that much so your mileage might vary. ;)

breakfastlady said...

Welcome back. I've missed your daily posts hugely.

Joint pain. I take glucosamine with chondritin, and fish oil but can't say I've noticed much difference. I was also recommended Devil's Claw but stopped taing it when I also developed a (probably completely unrelated) very sore belly. And yy to vit D. Here in deepest darkest Scotland, I know several people who've had Official Vit D deficiency, and one of the symptoms was v sore joints. Other than that, my only hope is the brand new 100+ trampoline trampoline park (all joined together, so you can bounce from one to the next ad (almost certain) nauseam, oh yeah) that has opened nearby. That has to be low impact, right? My children are distraught that it's over 10s only, but hahahaha. I'm WAY over 10, suckers. Watch me bounce!

anapestic said...

I feel like "muffin bereft" is something the Germans would have a single word for.

Waffle said...

Very weird things happening with comments here, I can see them, then I can't see them, aaargh. Sta Lucia has now vanished, also tip of nose of little flower of Jesus, but the joint pain comments are back. WTF, blogger.

THANK YOU for all the joint advice, yes even the exercise people though I slightly hate you. Shit. Must I?

cruella said...

Welcome back and all that. I don't know how I've been, oh no, wait! I managed to carry of the great birthday bash and everyone was delighted and there were kind and fun speeches and I was absolutely brainless with excitement so now I don't remember much. But the general afterglow is a nice and warm feeling so I guess all is good.

Apart from that we have a fullblown political crisis and a looming new election coming up maybe och probably. And of course Christmas. Tally-ho!

braithanlithe said...

I was scared to comment as I knew you'd hate the lack of crackpot remedies and the wholesome, effective alternatives. But I've scanned the comments briefly and feel safer adding my voice to a chorus. I'm 4 years older than you and have good excuses for crockedness in back and neck (scoliosis + extra cervical rib) middle age aches. Because yoga, pilates, walking. Sorry.
I've been thinking of taking vitD too but I'm way further north than you (apparently pretty much the entire Scottish nation is vitD deficient). Don't know if it'd make much difference to your back and neck. Though of course it'd be less effort than exercise...

Waffle said...

Braithanlithe - Ahahahaha you know me so well. Feck. I do lots of walking but it looks like I need to dial things up a notch. What a shame.

braithanlithe said...

The walking might also be varying in its effect depending on your posture, footwear, speed, gait, etc. Aaaahhhh the demons of Joanna Hall Walkactive Merrell Hotter Comfort Concept are COMING FOR YOU...

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