Monday, 6 February 2017

I do some stuff Pt 1

It has been so long that I have had time to DO STUFF. Yes. Stuff. You heard me. Brace for primary school style "what I have been doing" realness. I mean, don't expect excitement or anything, I haven't been undercover in a drug cartel or learning parkour and this is not high quality blogging, but I'm trying to get back into it. With that in mind, let us proceed.

1. I protested

The Brussels President Garbage Fire protest was non-ambulatory. We all just stood outside the opera house while some drumming ladies did drumming and held some candles and shuffled around in a "down with this sort of thing" kind of way. However, the minute I arrived I started crying at the mere fact that people had turned up and were standing around together, making a stand, old hippies, students, children, middle aged woman, etc etc. People are mainly excellent. I'm holding onto that. Apparently we're doing it all again on Sunday (I might make a sign this time).

2. I attended two - two! - exhibitions
Lovely street photography from William Klein, marred by the fact that there had been some kind of classic Brussels fuckery at the ticket office, which meant that the sole employee was on the phone and ignoring the giant queue. Cue near-anarchy/riot/total breakdown of queue discipline, well-heeled bruxellois making a run for the unmanned exhibition door.

The second exhibition was the amazing, amazing Icons of Modern Art at the Fondation Vuitton, as a late birthday present of sorts. Lord, it was beautiful, the room full of All The Matisse is worth the ticket price alone, it's bloody ravishing (Julian Barnes in LRB wrote a really good interesting review of it) Packed though. The roof was the only almost calm spot and a number of small spats broke out over the lavatory queue and other matters.

The chaotic timed entry system also meant we had to spend 2 hours wandering the Jardin d'Acclimatation, a good contender for Most Depressing Attraction in Paris (Especially On A Rainy Week Day).

Welcome to your terminal decline which will cost you €38 and your will to live

As well as many closed fairground rides in garish colours, wholly unchanged in the 12 years since I last went, they had about 7 pissed off hens, a gang of feral peacocks, hanging around thuggishly:

and, sorrow of sorrows, a BEAR, still. When I went there regularly with my tiny children when we lived in Paris they had a bear and it seemed like a mad 19th century throwback even then. Poor bear. We had to drink a great deal of consolatory wine in a bad Jardins d'Acclimatation restaurant that smelled of drains.

Despite the fact we went all the way to Paris, I had no time whatsoever to buy any decent cakes, and had to make do with a very ordinary flan. We did witness two thoroughly Parisian engueulades (street shouting matches) though, so I knew I was in Paris. On the way back, my husband, who is wired 100% differently to me, made us run through the security screening and illicitly sneak onto the train before the one we were booked on, meaning I spent 1h30 writhing in an agony of IN THE WRONG SEAT and DOING A WRONG THING Britishness.

3. I failed to save a rabbit
"Oh look, a baby rabbit," I thought to myself, heading to the metro last week and took a picture, then, only about 20 minutes later, did I think that perhaps a shitty little patch of scrub ground by the metro was not the greatest spot for a baby rabbit. I went back with a shoe box and lurked around for half an hour in the dog shit like a mad person trying to find it, but failed. Poor rabbit. I am sorry I was too dozy to save you. I hope someone else did.

(I confess also to a degree of relief, because Satan II is the last thing this household needs right now. Hillary the hen remains impossible to contain in any kind of hen house and spends her days scratching the last pitiful remnants of grass off our scrubby back yard, shouting at me and shitting luxuriantly on my back step. The tortoises have been de-fridged and are in the bathroom scrabbling like fuck. The dog is, well. The dog is just the dog and disapproves of everything, as usual and is wishing fervently we would all fuck off and die).

4. I passed my Dutch exam
94% schriftelijk, 98% mondeling, this at least means I can legitimately nag my children about their Dutch results, not that I need any enabling to nag. As of today I swapped to intensief which means 4 hours of Dutch each time. Four hours! We talked about: hangovers and awful children, both subjects I know something about.

M: Are you a Master of Dutch now? You will live forever in a Renaissance penumbra. When are you coming home?

E: BRB once I've forced my way through the tram door with this MASSIVE RUFF and these brocade pantaloons.

I was sufficiently emboldened to ask for tickets to the botanic garden and give my post code in Dutch yesterday (oh yes, we also went to a botanic garden, it's all go round here). The problem with learning Dutch is that all Dutch speakers are so fucking brilliant at other languages they don't need to put up with your pitiful, stumbling attempts at their language, so this was the first time i had gone beyond 2 words. I managed a full SIX words without the man on the till reverting to another language.

5. I bought 10kg of chocolate chips from Colruyt 
I'll be honest, I didn't really think this through. I have been looking for good choc chips for a while, for brioche roll/cookie purposes and a bloke told me you could get Callebaut ones in Colruyt, the legendary Belgian discount supermarket. I did not realise they would be in such vast quantities, or that it is horribly easy just to take a fistful on one's way down to empty the washing machine and that soon you become fat and spotty and have to dress like a plump mime (today's outfit). Whilst buying the chocolate chips, I dislodged an avalanche of 5 kg bags on my own head, giving myself a split lip which I consider a strong candidate for Most Belgian Injury of 2017.

6. I am "Kinshasa Production Crew"

Obviously (and sadly), this did not mean I went to Kinshasa. However my translation client won an award for his fantastic video and I made my whole family watch the awards show SHOUTING "I KNOW HIM I WORKED ON THIS" despite my contribution being, frankly, ridiculous. I grab any shred of kudos where I can.

7. Other
I have also unblocked the toilet 700000 times (the road safety armadillo toy is still causing havoc with our cistern).
I read many books, but failed to update the reading list. This will be speedily rectified.
I have written many things to order, none of them very impressive or glamorous. I did write a guide to explaining Brexit to young children, which I quite enjoyed. My own children found it painfully, tragically unfunny.
I have enrolled in a proper research library (in the hope of eventually writing something else)! It was like being back at Oxford in my first year when I was so scared of not knowing where to go or what to do and being shamed that I just sat paralysed in my room until lovely William showed me where I could obtain books. There was no lovely William this time, just some really dusty index cards and long dark corridors and an immensely complex system involving exchanging various plastic disks and a flashing light. I have made some progress in 22 years, because I was able to go up to the desk and declare my total ignorance and ask for an explanation. No one was particularly helpful, but it felt like progress anyway.

Most excitingly, I visited the brand new Manneken Pis wardrobe museum. More of this in my next post. With pictures, oh yes.

You? Any excitement? As you can see from the foregoing, the bar is low, so low.


Anonymous said...

'People are mainly excellent'. I really like that.

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Loved the Guardian piece. Your life is much more exciting than mine, though I may be able to rise to baby rabbits. Not black ones. Even Parisian rabbits are more chic than other varieties. I'd be happy to help out with the chocolate chips. There is not enough chocolate in the world to get us through the next 1365 days.

Unknown said...

Sounds very nice to me. For the last two weeks I have spent a large chunk of time every day nauseous because every day our President does something unheard of in the history of civilized people. I'm sorry he's an idiot; I did not vote for him. Yours sounds better.

Joy said...

Laughed out loud at your comment about sitting in the wrong seat (I would be a nail-biting wreck). My ears perked up at the mention of Julian Barnes - have always had a mad crush on his writing and this article didn't disappoint. Is the Yorkshire Vet no longer on? Based on your past commentary I made sure to watch every episode when we visited the UK last November. Husband was not pleased.

belalumo said...

I fully understand the sitting-in-the-wrong-seat anxiety. Every time I have to take a train I check my seat and car number obsessively. I know I'm in the right seat, but is it the right CAR? What if someone shouts at me?!
When and what is this protest on Sunday? I was at the other one in January, and it was healing. I've spent every day since obsessively reading about the demise of democracy in my country and could use another public display of disapproval.
Wishing your lip a speedy recovery. I'm sorry I laughed a little bit at Most Belgian Injury of 2017. I avoid Colruyt at all costs, but it might be worth it for good chocolate chips. Thanks for the tip.

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Belalumo - it's this:
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frau antje said...

"it felt like progress anyway" Word.

Excitement? Kid (who already works for things like burrowing owls) might be going to work for an 'out of control' state, for all the right reasons. This might be instrumental in tamping down the grave-spinning in my family, just a bit. Not that it's not exciting around here. Will any dominoes fall? Don't ask me, but I know exactly which non-native merchants I'll be going to when it's time for us all to hide in the woods.

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Oh my God. Please can I change my name to Fifi Kikangala (I mean it wouldn't take much).

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With respect to your British angst over the train business, can I guide you towards Very British Problems, on FaceBook or Twitter. I feel there is much there that you might identify with; I do.

WOL said...

In re the chocolate chips, are you making sure you are eating them in even numbers? Very Important Thing to Remember with chocolate, pastries, and other such foods that are sweet and/or fattening: You should never consume an odd number of them. Always, always eat at least two or, if they are small like chocolate chips, make sure the number you consume is evenly divisible by two. Otherwise, your hips will not balance. You don't want your hips to be out of balance. This is important.

ganching said...

Congratulations on your credit! A long time ago I went to the Barbican to see Angela's Ashes and I actually cried with pride when my sister's name appeared in the credits, "Prop Storeperson" no less! I wasn't so struck on the film itself.

Raye S. said...

Sounds like an accomplished few weeks! I have just returned from a week in Iceland and a week in San Francisco. What possessed me to put roughly 4 time zones and two different oceans back to back in the same trip, I don't know. I blame it on turning 35 in a few months and pretending I am still 18.

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SmitoniusAndSonata said...

I will have to get hold of your infants guide to Brexit ... I sure as hell haven't understood any of the others .

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