Saturday, 30 April 2016

Idiot Brain

Hello. My name is The Idiot Brain, apparently

(This was entirely accidental, but it seems terribly appropriate)

Here I am cutting the - if I say so myself and I do, having just eaten the leftovers - excellent Mary Berry sponge I brought along.

I really enjoyed Thursday night's event in Brussels Waterstones. There was an excellent discussion about which world or Belgian leader would look best rendered in cake (Didier Reynders = too grey, David Cameron = too pink, Justin Trudeau = too beautiful). Someone said "can I ask a personal question" sending me spiralling into terror and then asked something totally gentle and not searching. Quite a lot of people I know and adore were there, smiling at me encouragingly and I only talked myself into a dry mouthed corner once or twice.

If you are so inclined you can listen to a PODCAST of the Paris event, here. I have not been able to listen to more than twenty seconds because it turns out I still click my tongue as if attempting to echolocate when nervous and it's mortifying.

Since then I have been in a slump, mainly eating carbohydrates and catching up on Line of Duty. My current position - post-burrito sofa pythoning, catching up on the end of The People v OJ Simpson (my recording of which came with a tantalising glimpse of something I believe is called An Island Parish about Shetland, the minute or two I saw featuring not only A CHICKEN RACE but a Shetland pony show, I must investigate closer) - looks unlikely to change any time soon.


Trip to the far-flung, high-pitched vet for expensive tortoise maintenance

Impending sequence of child/Belgian holidays putting paid to my all-important brooding in silence time

Bored of waking at 5am

Generally a maelstrom of conflicting unmanageable emotions and insecurities

Unsure what to do next, workwise

The delectable Eric Kayser bakery was supposed to open a branch nearby on Thursday but has STILL not opened

Child turns 14 on Tuesday and I am fairly confident 14 was the actually WORST age for me, let's hope it's not hereditary

Dog is super extra whiny today for no apparent reason (hail trauma?).


Delicious custard doughnut

Apparently this is the last day of super shit weather for a while

Have decided I am allowed to have an additional treat in form of replacing my super expensive Portrait of a Lady body cream

Season 2 Kimmy Schmidt

Got a couple of really lovely emails/tweets from people who have read book


As per above (50% emotional maelstrom, 50% carbohydrate)


Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Winter is coming

Let's have some normality around here (NB: apart from obligatory promo for Waterstones Brussels Event tomorrow, here. There is wine! For free! I am making cookies! We will discuss the time I made a cake in the shape of Guy Verhofstadt's face!* There may also be a slightly book related part at the end of this post, ssssh).


1. I tried to do some baking today and my spatula got caught in the blade of my Kitchen Aid, arced across the kitchen and landed in a bowl of eggs, exploding three of them, a series of events so improbable it would be impossible to reproduce. This is the universe telling me not to do baking. That is a shame since I really want to attempt another ludicrous cake soon - possibly an Opéra/Bamboo or an Antarès, but oh, I have the macaron fear and also the Joconde fear, and other varieties of almond and egg white based terror.

2. This ludicrous apocalypse weather. I have seen more hailstones this week than in the entire rest of my life. The chickens are funny with hail. Initially they think it is food and peck excitedly at it, then they get more and more confused and bedraggled and finally run away and hide, only to be fooled as soon as the next hailstorm comes (currently, that is about 45 seconds after the previous one). That is the only good thing about hail. I had to wear my Goretex cagoule today to go INTO THE TOWN, the actual town, where city sophisticates (= shoeless street drinkers) mill around, in a sophisticated fashion. This constitutes is a whole new level of middle aged shame, but man, it was seductive with its many pockets and weather resistance.

3. Pepper, the ultimate dickhead hen, has a new quirk, which involves sitting on top of her water bucket, throne-style, then shitting into the water, which I then have to change. Feathered devil.

4. All that stuff in that article about pets I wrote is truer than ever - we have ANOTHER ailing tortoise. I have been rubbing two kinds of ointment on its eye and have had to make an appointment with the Specialist With The Very High Pitched Voice who is far away, so that's Saturday sorted.

5. 5am dread infused wake ups appear to be a regular thing for S/S 16.

6. May, the freelancer's month of dread in continental Europe, is approaching rapidly. In preparation for the endless assortment of random mid-week public holidays, F is off school already tomorrow. Next week all hell breaks loose and I believe they are only going to school for 2 days total. It continues in this vein for weeks. God help us all.

7. I have missed two Dutch classes and am super-behind and the girl who is really good at Dutch will have zoomed past me and I will be left behind at tomorrow's class, raging and ashamed and unable to do my irregular imperfects.

8. I am also very behind on my admin and a trail of mislaid pieces of paper dances just out of my sight in every corner of the house. Well, I assume they do, I certainly can't find any of them.

9. Bin night.


1. There seem to be a profusion of amusing docu-soaps on TV currently. I have enjoyed: The Yorkshire Vet, again (my whole family hate me since I made them watch the Yorkshire vet castrating a succession of alpacas and tossing their testicles into a pile of hay, but I am unrepentant). Throwing Money at the Process of Having a Baby, or something (millionaire maternity at the Portland. I used to walk past this place often and rubber-neck for celebrities without success), Billionaires Horrible Interior Decoration (which has had the unfortunate side effect of making me LONG for a bespoke bed at £40,000 of your finest pounds) The Island with (or rather without) Bear Grylls, etc etc. I haven't had to think in the evening for weeks.

2. Email exchange with B ending with me writing "Hmm, spider penis sounds awfully familiar. I am sure we have discussed spider penis before."

3. We have put the fire on because of the apocalypse weather and it is SO cosy, though this year's logs are so large I can only stagger up the stairs with one at a time.

4. The Great Big Lizard brought this GIF to my attention and now I cannot stop watching it for lo, it is perfection. The way it pans up to the capybara. Who is the genius behind it?

5. Frite night.

6. Lots of kindness of various kinds.

For your consideration

This on French dressing for The Pool, where I am also the Bedtime Book Club Book this week should you wish to try before you buy (the pygmy goat is only a gazillion copies away).

Katyboo wrote this and it is beautiful and thoughtful and gets it and I feel extremely lucky. I know it is disgusting behaviour to link to this and I will smite myself with scorpions all night or failing that lie awake in sweaty dread, because that is my current MO.


35% Frites
20% Frustration at ongoing failure to watch most recent ep of Line of Duty
20% Cake concerns
15% I should probably wash my wig
10% But I probably won't bother.



Saturday, 23 April 2016

Paris Paris Paris

So: Thursday. Thursday was amazing, and strange and unreal. I am going to write it down even if it is a bit boring to read, being in the "and then we did this" mode, because I really need to remember it later on when I am back to being Eeyoreish and immersed in the Powerpoints of Death. I'm not very good at that whole "being in the moment" business, so I need to be able to do it retrospectively. This was definitely to be savoured. Post contains the words "beautiful", "mad", "ludicrous" far too many times and there are a lot of photos. On that basis, let us proceed (update: I am having to do this for a second time thanks to Blogger losing the whole lot ARGH).

I got to Paris in the morning (after a train ride sitting next to an aeronautical engineer who of course turned out to live about 100 yards from me and who told me about his French bulldogs). The sun was out and it was balmy and beautiful and the Air bnb M and I had rented was in the middle of the Marais, all sun-warm honey stone and nonsensically pretty little boutiques (it was brilliant, perfect for acting out all your fantasies of Parisian living and highly recommended if you don't mind having to do some full on contortionism to get in and out of the shower/loo).

I dragged M off on a cake crawl even though she was actually dying of a chest infection.

1. Du Pain et des Idées

I dream of these little savoury bread twists.

2. Stohrer

Oldest pâtisserie in France. Home of the rum baba. We did not have a rum baba, because gross. We had this guy. He was actually not up to his usual standards, but tasty nonetheless.

3. Lafayette Gourmet

Lafayette Gourmet plays a really pivotal role in the book but they have MOVED it, so we wandered around in confusion for a while, but finally located the Sadaharu Aoki counter and the significant Bamboo cake. Then M saw a sign for a Pierre Hermé ice cream counter, so we went there and found THESE BEAUTIES, which are macaron ice cream sandwiches:

I love this picture of us maddened by sugar:

I think I might print it out and put it on my office wall along with the polaroid from the very first time we ever met, which was also in Paris.

Then we went back and had a rest and took a selection of stupid pictures. Look, I am totally calm and not freaking the fuck out at all.

M vetoed the dress - too dressy - so I wore my discount silk shirt with little swimmers all over it and discount Margaret Howell trousers and we drank half a bottle of champagne as we got ready. There was a total fucking panic when I realised I had left my eyeliner on the table at home and a woman with no lashes really can't do without liner on a Big Occasion, or indeed any occasion at all in Paris. M lent me a crayon-y thing and I cobbled a bit of face together, then we walked through the Marais and over the river and along the Seine in the twilight and it was beautiful, stupidly beautiful and there were people kissing all along the quais.

I dunno why I'm putting so many pictures of me: I think I can't quite believe it was me, there, doing it and I need hard evidence.

I looked thoroughly pissed off here, but it's just the cold hand of terror clenching my insides up. As it turned out, the teror was totally unnecessary. Everyone was LOVELY, the audience were smiley and encouraging, my sister came, no one quizzed me on French politics or Proust and Shakespeare & Co in the balmy spring evening was like something out of a fecking romantic comedy it was so charming. I think I did ok at the reading/answering questions though I did gibber on in a not especially coherent fashion at some points. I especially liked the bit where someone asked me what French expressions I thought were particularly telling about the French character and my mind went totally blank and I ended up ranting on about jambes lourdes and the French obsession with magnesium (I have fully internalised this and am devoted to magnesium too).

Afterwards people wanted their books signed and I signed books which felt like a complete out of body experience, Barbara took a picture, or I wouldn't have quite believed it happened. I then completely fucked up her book dedication, due to being barely sentient with the weirdness of it all, sorry again Barbara and Rob.

We had a mad, funny dinner then M took me to Le Caveau de la Huchette, legendary jazz club type place which was magical and strange and I got to watch her DANCE, she is a fiendishly good dancer. There was a child prodigy boogie woogie pianist, a weirdly high concentration of bald American gentlemen in their 60s and an insane woman who came over and plucked petals off the rose she was holding and laid them on our table with a beady expression of deranged menace.

On the way out we stopped to take a picture of Shakespeare & Co in the moonlight. A rat ran in front of me down the drain and I became very over-excited "LOOK A RAT DID YOU SEE THE RAT", I don't know what is wrong with me.

We walked home along the other side of the Seine and it was EVEN MORE STUPIDLY BEAUTIFUL in the moonlight (nearly full, clear and pale yellow). Ludicrous. Paris, you beautiful bastard.

There you go. My book is launched! If you see it in the wild I would love a picture. And if you read it and like it and are inclined to leave an Amazon review apparently that is a very helpful thing for the goat fund, so I would be hugely grateful if you did.

Reminder: On Thursday 28th April at 7pm I will be doing something similar at Waterstones Brussels, details here (no rats or Pierre Hermé, but otherwise similar). Come! Don't quiz me about Proust!


100% CAKE


Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Minus one

Ah, I'm so sad about Victoria Wood. What a bloody brilliant woman.

I have been up since 4:45 when L started loudly making himself breakfast (this from the child who disdains breakfast approximately 99% of the time) prior to the ridiculously early school trip departure and I'm not wholly serene to say the least about tomorrow so today has involved the following:

1. Saying "petits gâteaux' over and over again in Tom Kerridge's West Country accent (are you watching Bake Off Crème de la Crème? I love that French judge, I love him, I love his angry face and the way he says "sponge" and the furious disdain with which he pokes substandard dacquoise).

2. Deciding that before tomorrow I ought to be fully au fait with everything that has happened in French politics in the past 10 years, just in case, and trying to read a million articles about the loi el khomri but getting nowhere.

3. Starting to make tea/breakfast and forgetting about it for an hour. Starting again. Forgetting again. Giving up and having three lunches instead.

4. Practising reading out loud to the dog who stalked away coldly into another room.

5. Picking compulsively at lips.

6. Reading entire synopsis of A la recherche du temps perdu JUST IN CASE (in case what? In case of a surprise test on Proust? Yep, that's definitely a thing that happens in the normal course of a book event).

7. Buying and eating an M&S apple turnover telling myself it is in some way fitting or symbolic (it isn't, it is of no symbolic significance whatsoever except my friend Kate who features in the book introduced me to it).

8. Reading the end of A Place of Greater Safety which I have been rereading this month and loving utterly but MY GOD, it is not a good book if you are in a state of high nervous whateverthefuck. Doom! Dread! Betrayal! Galloping inevitability of tragedy!

9. Curling up under the printer when it had one of its fits and keening gently.

10. Laughing at this missive from my sister about getting mansplained at by a rogue poet.

I am off to wash my "hair" now because I am going to Paris tomorrow and they're not going to put up with this lank Old El Paso scented version. EEEEEK. THIS IS IT.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

We'll Always Have Percentages: Trying and failing to daily post

Shit, I totally failed at this important promotional daily blogging business: a combination of ill-timed wine, poor scheduling, falling upstairs and scalding my hand with boiling herbal tea (rock 'n' roll) and outbreaks of acute anxiety, usually at 5am, which is a shit excuse because I wouldn't have been blogging at 5am, would I. Actually that may come in useful tomorrow morning when I have to get up at 5 to take L to the coach for his school trip to London, god help us all, his bag contains half his bodyweight in sweets, quite possibly no pyjamas and I have no idea what else.

The GOOD thing is that is totally on brand for a book largely about failure, yes? Sigh. I haven't made any cake yet, because I am scared of making Joconde or anything involving macarons and those are the next steps. I will though, I promise.

The book comes out on Thursday and because I like to focus on the essentials, I am mainly concerned about not knowing what to wear for the launch/event thing in Paris. I mean, it's not a cocktail dress job is it, which is a shame because I have a really good dress that would be perfect.

Me to M (who is coming for moral support/possum in bakery style cake consumption): Will it be all intellectual beard stroking types?

M: I don't think anyone there will have a beard. Or indeed a penis.

E: Oh. No. You're probably right.

I think I am going with North Yorkshire discount outlet mall silk shirt, North Yorkshire discount outlet mall Margaret Howell trousers, because what could be more Inès de la Fressange/Emmanuelle Béart than a haul from a discount outlet mall in North Yorkshire. I will wear my new shoes. I am trying to break them in:

... but then I have to take them off to go and shout at the chickens, which constitutes about 40% of my daily activity (they have a new habit of standing on their water container in such a way that they repeatedly shit into it), so that is not wholly lifestyle compatible. I'll bring emergency trainers. I have a tight schedule of cake purchases to manage.

But if I do wear trousers/shirt, how/where can I wear my lucky gold croissant? So many dilemmas, when I should be probably worrying about getting quizzed on Proust. NB: I borrowed "there'll be no butter in hell" from the helpful comment suggestions on favourite lines in books for their little interview thing, so thanks whoever suggested it. If you're in Paris on Thursday (yeah, I know) and you fancy it, here are the details.

Apart from that it's all been discussing whether a yak is a good under the influence purchase (with M), how to dispose of a horse sized spider (with F) and playing spot the sea monster (with B).

If I don't go to bed now there is no chance whatsoever I'll be doing anything other than crying in a foetal ball tomorrow night, which will put paid to any other posting opportunities.


20% stolen choux outrage (long story)
20% eye strain
20% creeping dread
20% Dutch sentence construction
20% Wishing I'd had my teeth cleaned by softly spoken Jérémie the kind dentist in the last 6 months instead of hiding away until I look like Father Jack.


Thursday, 14 April 2016

Intangible Cultural Heritage

Oh god, I've got nothing. Nothing has happened since yesterday except I chewed my lips even more badly.

What would I say if I had a gun to my head? Erm...

We watched a short film about frieten in Dutch class, because no cliché must be left unplumbed. It was about a petition to get Belgian chip wagon culture to be part of UNESCO's whatever the fuck it's called intangible cultural heritage thingy, which seemed pleasingly Belgian. The film also contained the fact that apparently Belgium is the third unhealthiest eating country behind Hungary and Armenia. Since all the teaching materials are not bang up to date, this may have been the case circa 1997 rather than now, but I still found it intriguing. My Hungarian classmate explained her country's poor healthy eating results on the fact that they like eating pork and pork fat. We don't have an Armenian (Iranian, Hungarian, British, Moroccan, Tunisian, Greek, Ukrainian, Russian, Brazilian, Italian, Congolese, but no Armenian) to explain their awful diet. We also talked about what made us feel angry (I had loads of ideas) and euphoric (stymied for me by not being able to say "miniature shetland pony" in Dutch yet. I suppose I could have essayed something with "uil" in it, but didn't).

I am currently listening to (recently Baileys Prize shortlisted) The Portable Veblen. Anyone read or listened to this because it is driving me demented, and I wonder if it is the narrator.

Very sad about the demise of Badger, who I met once, and admired greatly.

Londoners, tickets are now available for THIS, which is The Books That Built Me on 21 June. I am really excited about it, because talking about books with Helen is my idea of a good evening and there is chocolate and champagne. Please come!


40% Fretting (20% book, 20% children)
10% Unpleasant herbal tea
10% Annoyed someone has dicked around with my toolbars
40% Letting myself, and possibly the whole class, down.


Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Brevity (is the soul of frite night)

My aim for tonight's post is as follows: to finish by half past ten so I can go to bed and watch Line of Duty on the iPlayer. Commitment to quality, right here.


1. The Internet has been amusing today. I have enjoyed:

The two medieval monks invent cartography

Goat in Starbucks, an expert writes (according to B his friend was actually there during the Goat Incident)

Owl on a toy horse

Owl child

2. Since I started learning Dutch I no longer need to put the titles on Beleef de Lente videos into Google Translate and can read for myself "seventh egg" for the kingfisher and "an egg soon?" for the little owls. Bird fanciers, I commend to you the tawny owl chicks (bosuil) tonight, because they are nearing maximum cuteness.

3. I ordered myself some posh new shoes as a premature book present and they arrived today without getting lost in the bowels of Bastardpost and I love them.

4. I am reading Nina Stibbe's new book, which is bloody brilliant of course and there was a section in it today that left me helpless with laughter, where the heroine writes a list of British euphemisms ("in nice writing with tasteful but honest illustrations") for her new boss.

5. Wednesday night is frite night and the frites were as good as ever.

6. Found a crumpled forgotten €20 note stuffed in the bottom of my wallet.

7. Several more sightings of book in the wild, including by B who BOUGHT it.


1. First week of spring-like weather = return of FULL BODY ITCHING.

2. My lizard brain has decided it is time to start worrying about getting sued.

3. My son's phone keeps buzzing hysterically as his class send each other semi-literate (and that's generous) messages (eg. J mon bar les coui for the lovely phrase "je m'en bats les couilles", I beat my testicles with it, meaning 'I don't give a shit about it' literally just read this off screen as I went to turn it off AGAIN), distracting me from my 10:30 deadline. #youth

4. The thing I am trying to finish writing has taken me far too long and is still awful.

5. I am getting fat again after last summer's madness left me pleasingly thinner. This is due to dietary creep, ie. almost imperceptibly adding more stealth food to my daily intake and pretending to myself that I haven't done it. Half a pretzel here, a couple of squares of chocolate (no, not "good quality dark chocolate") there, five thousand frites everywhere. Sigh.

6. It's already 10:38.


40% twitchy
20% beef dripping
20% bin night blues
20% dry lip picking


Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Scenes of a veterinary nature

1. Dairy Queen
This afternoon I was sitting working and listening to a tap drip in the kitchen with mild annoyance. After 20 minutes or so I glared across at the tap and saw it was not dripping at all, and when I looked closer I saw that a sea of milk was spreading across the kitchen floor. I had knocked over a badly-closed litre of milk putting something away in the fridge and it had been slowly emptying itself everywhere. I look forward to the smell never going away, despite 2 rolls of kitchen towel and a profusion of healing profanities. This evening, I tripped over and dropped a fresh, plump, wobbling slice of flan all down myself (the fresher it is, the more destruction it causes: a stale flan would just bounce harmlessly). I have of course eaten all remnants, including the ones full of carpet fluff and other floor based detritus, because if I had any self-respect we would surely have discovered it before now.

2. New vocab
First Dutch class for weeks today. Lots of discussion of the anslaagen (attacks), are we bang (scared) etc etc, then a brisk change of gear to more irregular imperfect verbs, then another screeching u-turn to watch a short film about gay teenagers speed dating. Varied.

3. Mild hysteria
Two friends showed me pictures of my book prematurely out in the wild today (here and here) and then my stepmother texted to say they had bought it on Kensington High Street (note: I did give them a copy, they just got over-excited and wanted to mark the occasion). I know this is only of interest to me and my family but YOU ARE MY FAMILY *weeps* *points to 'acknowledgments' section* *hoists trembling Peggy Mitchell bosom*. I won't do this often, I promise.

4. Grim Up North
This evening I got really excited that The Yorkshire Vet, my favourite programme was back and made F watch it with me. In rapid succession:

- A vet made a large hole in a cow ("Julian must be careful not to scare Caroline" went the voiceover which seemed a bit optimistic as he had HIS ENTIRE ARM IN HER INTESTINES at that point), then removed therefrom a piece of rope and a 3 inch nail and identified the fact that there was also a calf in there, which he did not remove.

- A baby emu called Dave had to have its eyelid removed after a dog attack.

- A sheep had its prolapsed rectum replaced and anus restitched.

- A dog was discovered to have a gigantic tumour whilst being operated upon and died on the table in a pool of blood.

Poor F. We were staring at each other and not at the screen as tubes of intestine were roughly forced in various directions I said "I AM REALLY SORRY USUALLY IT IS LOVELY" and he retched occasionally. I will be back next week for more, despite this. I am pretty sure that if F ever nourished any fantasies about becoming a vet, I have now buried them definitively.

5. Event thing
As previously mentioned, I am doing an "event" in Waterstones in Brussels on 28th April, format as yet unknown, but certain to involve awkwardness, poorly delivered jokes and a dry mouth. Here is the info - I promised I would plug it so here I am plugging it and I warn you, I will probably do it again. If you are inclined to come, you can just turn up, I believe: "the event is free, all are very much welcome and refreshments are provided", which ticks most of my boxes for an evening out, except "miniature Shetland pony in gift bag".

6. Ugh 
Just found a crumb of flan down my bra. Going to try and sluice the sticky custard/apricot glaze from my person and give myself a stern talking to.


20% Flan remorse
20% Poor time management
20% Irregular verbs
20% Trying to decide which A.P.C. literary heroine dress I am (probably Emma, though I long to be Odette)
20% Icelandic remorse (failed to watch last episode of Trapped before it expired from my iPlayer thing - did he REALLY do up his coat??)


Monday, 11 April 2016

Rural Bliss

We are back! The sun shone today! My book arrived today having assumed its ultimate form! This was an exciting, and also a terrifying moment and I could only look at it for half an hour or so before I got overwhelmed and had to hide it again.

It arrived in a battered jiffy bag, resealed with Bastardpost sellotape that read "Your package was accidentally damaged". I love the use of the passive form here.

Note regarding last post: the photos I was complaining about (and accompanying piece) are here. I ... I don't know. I think I look like a dick, especially in the blowsy eclair leering weird "hair" picture and the "totally naturally reading this paper, this is how I always sit" pic. I blame this ENTIRELY on myself, the photographer did a wonderful job, but the raw materials are sadly lacking and apparently incapable of placing their hands in a natural, non-claw position.

Further note: My friend F would like it to be known that she was the one who said that Pokemon sounded like Racine in French after I sang (well, "sang" over gchat) the theme song to her.

Anyway, less unsubtle book plugging, more holiday complaining. We had a wonderful time, climbed many hills, drank many gins, ate many crisps and read many books, but we had some evening entertainment issues.

Day 1: we have lunch with my father who announces, just as he and my stepmother are leaving "oh, by the way, the television isn't working, you can only get BBC1, CBeebies and BBC4".
We spend a wholesome evening reading and playing chess ("how nice this is" we say unconvincingly to each other), only latterly resorting to portentous BBC1 drama about undercover cops.

Day 2: No one wants to play chess again (ok, when I say no one I actually mean me). We watch Look North (local news, many stabbings), Masterchef and some episodes of a lacklustre comedy I have taken the precaution of downloading on my laptop. It is not entirely appropriate due to talk of testicles in mouths. We gloss over this as best we can: IN BRITISH SILENCE.

Day 3: Our attempts to interest the boys in a BBC4 film about a 16th century horse trader fighting unfair taxation, in German, French and Occitan, mystifyingly fail. We find Season 7 of Buffy in a cupboard and start watching that on the DVD player that is part of the telly. Boys are underwhelmed but submit. Just as things are getting interesting down at the Hellmouth the TV just ... dies. I have to sulk in the kitchen for a while and have an extra gin. Contemplate rewatching downloaded episodes of Trapped to teach ourselves Icelandic, but storylines of sex trafficking/domestic abuse/dismemberment lead me to think twice. We read extracts from The British Book of Moths and Larousse Gastronomique. Occasionally someone mentions some good telly we are missing and we all sigh. Most of the time we all look like these owls from The British Book of Birds, which we also peruse, in extremis:

Day 4: We drive to Bedale first thing in morning and negotiate a loan TV set. On returning and plugging it in, we realise we still only have BBC1, CBeebies and BBC4.

Day 5: The repair guy comes! After some fiddling with cables, he does something miraculous and we can luxuriate in Dave Ja Vu, ITV2 Plus One and twenty thousand shopping channels.

Day 6: All the channels barring BBC, CBeebies and BBC4 disappear again.

In truth, none of this matters, because there are tiny bouncing lambs in the field:

 and a million varieties of weather in 12 hours

And it is all just stupidly beautiful.



10% Eye strain
10% Eye drops
30% Gorging on the Internet
50% Decca Aitkenhead's amazing book. Jeez.


Ps - Imaginary Hugh Jackman's advice column is back! One of my favourite things on the Internet. 

Friday, 1 April 2016

Eye eye

My disgusting eye and I had our picture taken this morning.

(Me to friend F: What should I wear? 

F: A baguette

She is so helpful. She also tried to insist the book should be called "Driving over Baguettes". Or "B is for Book") 

French paraphernalia

In the end I wore what I later realised are the Trousers of Misfortune, which attract dirt and staining at an unearthly rate and are also quite unflattering, but which exert some kind of malign influence over me when I am in their orbit causing me to think they are a wardrobe winner. The photo business was mildly farcical. Conversation:

Photographer: Can you get your hair out of your eyes

E: Not really. It's a wig, I have alopecia. If I put it too far out of my eyes, it looks ridiculous. Look (holds fringe back). 

Photographer: .....

E: Fine, I'll get some product. But you need to do something about this eye. 

Heroically patient photographer: Leave the eye to me. 

Photo poses: contemplating books, contemplating éclairs, reading newspaper, meditatively holding a cup of coffee, holding a hen, guerrilla holding another cup of coffee on a café terrace, hoping serving staff would not notice (they didn't, thank you Belgian service culture). In all of them I look awkward, stiff and confused. "Bit more joy? Think 'BUY MY BOOK'", instructed the heroically patient photographer, but unless he is some kind of wizard, I expect I will look like Father Dougal McGuire trying to understand the difference between small and far away. In stained trousers.

After that I took the dog to the vet for his expensive pre-holiday decontamination and fell in love with this stoic little chap: 

In the afternoon after some work and similar drudgery I took to my bed because I felt like death (learning point: a St Honoré eclair and a bowl of spinach are not a good hungover lunch), welching on my promise (unsolicited, undesired, no one cared) to take children to bookshop for voluminous piles of holiday reading. The evening was greatly improved by a vodka martini of the kind I imagine the Duke of Edinburgh might describe as "bracing". Consider me fully braced. 

Amid this catalogue of inertia, incompetence and alcohol, I have managed to update the reading page for March though. Not very highbrow, but a couple of good 'uns. 

This may be my last post before the holidays! Then again, I may manage another one. Try and contain your excitement at the prospect of further high quality accounts of literally fuck all happening. 


70% vodka
10% ocular grossness
0.000001% vermouth