Friday, 31 March 2017


Ok, in the spirit of reframing the steaming heap of terrible that this week has been (Brexit, release of Ru Paul's Drag Race s9 to UK but not Belgian Netflix, Xanax-necessitating school stress, 2500€ surprise social security bill, series of professional badnesses mainly still unresolved, culminating today in happy news of a contrôle fiscale) I am going to tell you some GOOD things.

1. All four tortoises are now eating! I have had an extremely stressful time with the females, who were very disinclined to emerge from hibernation and who have required daily baths, Reptoboost, much coaxing with varied foodstuffs and constant putting back under the heat lamp as they shuffled off to do their best to die, yet again. No such issue with the males, who emerged from hibernation, spent a month in our bathroom slamming themselves repeatedly against their food dish demanding more leaves, then were sent outside where they have indulged in a non-stop carnival of fighting, eating and attempted same-sex shagging. I will not draw any conclusions about male and female characteristics from this, no I will not.

2. I made both millionaire's shortbread and fudge brownies this week and both were successful and now my trousers are very tight, but I'm supposed to be being positive so no more of that, even though Tuesday is evil gynae weigh-in time and I am reasoning thus "if I just literally don't eat ANYTHING between now and Tuesday it might be alright", then filling my face with foods and planning tonight's pizza.

3. I am very much enjoying Birdcage Walk even though it is frequently making me think how awful it would have been to be a woman in the 18th century (or indeed any time pre-antibiotics). March reading has generally been quite good, I will update soon. I also found S-Town fascinating even though it was very upsetting in parts (and this makes interesting points about it that also struck me when listening).

4. My skin has improved, so now Frau Antje can wear it if she wishes (better skins are available).

5. We are going to Yorkshire next week with zero ingrate children, just the dog and, in my case, a huge pile of books. This is wonderful (except that I accidentally took on some work that I didn't actually want and will have to do on my holidays - SORRY, I know that is not good, but it's preying on me). I am looking forward to: lunch in the Wensleydale Heifer, lambs, birthday lunch with my surrogate sort of not mother, buying 800000 Yorkshire Gold teabags, Betty's (and particularly Betty's easter display), seeing my sister, maybe a trip to the Margaret Howell outlet shop and hours and hours of just staring at the moor, some bleak and bracing trudging.

6. Parts of the garden are starting to recover from Hillary assault and my current hen Alacatraz arrangement seems to be holding. It was 22°C yesterday and almost as warm today and I can feel my grey, lardy carcass relaxing slightly as the spring takes hold. Look, this was last weekend as we waited for yet another orchestra rehearsal to finish, all wild garlic and these white flower things and tiny red squirrels dashing around:

And this was just some random tree in the street, but I like it

7. B sent me an email this morning whose entire contents was the phrase "MEXICAN PENIS SEAT"

8. This cocktail

was delicious and after it and another one of its ilk I only felt about 38% like crawling away to die the next day, which at 42 is really the best one can expect.

9. I got this guy framed, finally:

And he fitted into a standard sized frame so it was (a) immediate and (b) cheap, also (c) everyone who works at the Schleiper framing department is filled with bonhomie towards their fellow men, making it a particularly delightful and let's be honest, unusual, Brussels retail experience.

10. I could watch this armadillo unrolling (also courtesy of B) infinite times and not get bored.

I encourage you to tell me of your own small good things in the comments but if it's a stunning writing related success KEEP IT TO YOURSELF, we don't need your sort round these parts.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017


I don't have much time, so I'm just going to do some complaining. Please join in in the comments. You know it feels good.

1. My skin is terrible again and I can’t leave it alone. There are two adolescent boys in this house and they BOTH have fewer spots than me, how can this possibly be? I even bought some of the face stuff various of you recommended when I was last moaning about my skin, but it seems to be making everything worse. Or that might be the amount of Dairy Milk I am eating.

2. I have sinusitis and feel like I am underwater, except also the water I am under is magic water that has the power to make you REMARKABLY STUPID.

3. My new chicken water thingy is terrible, an awful design, which keeps emptying itself and sending me into puny, toddler-style impotent rages. Whilst I was mid-rage this morning, a crow ate one of the eggs I had left on top of the chicken house.

4. I have committed at some significant expense to do a thing with my family when really I wanted to do it BY MYSELF. IN SILENCE. Much more cheaply.

5. I left my bank card in the ticket machine at the cinema on Sunday and with 4, above, currently on my credit card have no means of obtaining cash.

6. On aforementioned cinema trip I also accidentally went to see the wrong film and was too British to fight my way through the row of pensioners to get out and go and see the right film (La La Land). The film I did see (M et Mme Adelman) was described by Le Monde as “un ratage spectaculaire” and “une funeste erreur” (spectacular failure/grave error). A great afternoon altogether.

7. I have some work now but it is the real chore kind that makes me want to watch videos of giant cockerels, or clean eating bloggers making salad, or do my VAT, or anything else at all, really.

8. Having lost the Tamagotchi of Evil (Fitbit), I sunk into terrible non-walking, Dairy Milk eating habits for a week, but I have now found it again. Which is … good? I suppose? But I quite enjoyed my lapse into #fuckit torpor and not being nagged to do 250 steps an hour. It is genuinely alarming to me how susceptible I am to the commands of my tiny wrist overlord. I will be fuck all use in the rebellion against our robot masters a few decades down the line, indeed, it looks like I will be a massive collabo. Oh, self-knowledge, you are a dubious gift.

9. Is this streaming eyes and nose scenario hayfever, already? This despite the fact that back yard is still a barren chicken ravaged wasteland, from which no pollen can be emanating.

10. I ate so much rhubarb crumble last night that my groaning, bloated stomach STILL aches. This is bad in and of itself, but also my visit to The Mean Gynaecologist is fast approaching and TMG insists on weighing you and commenting sternly if you have had the temerity to gain any weight (which CLEARLY, I have, I was quite slim 18 months ago when I last saw her due to insanity, now I am at the high point of the #fuckit curve). Rhubarb crumble binges are not the way to deal with this. I sometimes wonder if I should just refuse to let her weigh me, but I find authority figures irresistible and she is very tweedy and authoritarian indeed.

Ok, your turn.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017


Jesus Nathan Christ, it’s been an age. I got very busy (bread and butter stuff, nothing wildly prestigious I can boast about), then about 2 days ago all the work vanished (I mean, I finished it, they didn’t take it away).

Have I taken full advantage of this hiatus to exercise, enjoy the sunshine, dig the “garden” (Hillary's implacable giant claws have dealt with that) or work on personal projects about which I am passionate? Have I pitched my plucky, creative arse off? Have I fuck. I have been sitting, allowing waves of unease, worthlessness and envy of my more successful peers to build up, whilst watching unnecessary television on catch-up. At least, then, I should update this weblog, especially since I am on a train, without access to televisual entertainment and the only remaining work I have in the pipeline is so awful I need several days more procrastination before I can even contemplate it. I found myself nearly clicking this link, which tells you all you need to know about the state of my head:

What Has Been Happening

1. I had to have my lunch 5 metres underwater

This was wild. I am not one for water, or exercise, or peril, but it was pleasingly mad. Basically, my British desire not to make a scene was the only thing between me and screaming panic, but it worked. This is how you conquer stuff, I suppose, by being too embarrassed to admit you are actually scared to conquer it.

2. Continued adventures in sweet dough
Much more importantly - I bought a 99 cent dough scraper and it has changed my life. I am all about yeast baking at the moment (sweet stuff, who gives a shit about bread, there are good bakers in this town) and my GOD, the sensual pleasure of the dough scraper, it is almost as good as my salad spinner (remember that other minor joy of recent months). So far I have made two sets of chocolate chip brioche and enough cinnamon rolls to propel myself into a Scandinavian diabetic coma (like a normal one but with better light fittings). If you have other suggestions for enriched dough crack products I could try, I am all eyes (and dough scraper).

3. Visa try-hard
I have made repeated trips to the Chinese consulate to obtain a visa for my xiao erzi who is going on a Carrefour Voyages trip with his grandparents at Easter. The trip is a reward for the past nearly 5 years of Tiger Educating he has imposed upon himself (currently 299 characters for the next exam, of which I have retained approx 2). The Visa Centre is in the arse end of nowhere and the experience is .. well, I think it played to my strengths in craven approval seeking/teacher’s pet paper wrangling. I assembled so many pieces of paper the woman on the desk kept waving them away. Despite my try-hard efforts, I was not successful first time, no one was. I arrived at 9:30 and by 9:45 all of the 15 people that had been waiting with me for the visa centre to open had been turned away for one reason or another. There was a strong sense of comradeship among us, until we all had to queue up again for the same window with our new, improved paperwork. On my return trip to collect the visa, the woman in front of me was getting QUITE LITERALLY one hundred and nineteen passports back. I know this because she counted them all out in front of me, slowly, as I fantasised about the best way to murder her.

4. I have watched television.

I have particularly enjoyed:

Mutiny - ridiculous, ridiculous show in which a gang of basic blokes try to recreate Captain Bligh’s voyage across the Pacific somewhere (don’t make me be specific). I am experiencing strong feelings about the patriarchy currently (see below) and I confess seeing blokes doing utterly ridiculous, risky things and GETTING PUNISHED BY THE ELEMENTS for it is very pleasing.

This Is Us - This is my Friday lunchtime treat on catch up, though I have a major beef which is, what the fuck is it with all those men and their thoughtful romantic gestures? I have NEVER known a man to act in this manner and suspect if one did, I would find it profoundly alarming. The expression of a man faced with a need for spontaneity, surprise or romance should be one of blank, elemental panic, surely. It is not very surprising though, since everyone in This Is Us is profoundly good. This should be tiresome but is in fact restful and restorative, like a field full of gamboling lambs (auto-correct would like “gambling lambs”, which I would also watch the hell out of).

The Crown - Yes, years after everyone else. Oh lord, I have such a crush on Princess Margaret ("Margaret Rose", my mother's first husband, who sort of idolised her too, used to call her). She is perfection.

Elementary - It is a continued struggle to find things that all my family will watch together - Kimmy Schmidt, 30 Rock, Parks and Rec, Breaking Bad have all been successes, other things have crashed and burned miserably. This is our latest effort - L is positive, F covertly looks at his phone throughout, husband either says who did it in the first 3 minutes or falls deeply asleep (or both) and I spend the whole time distracted by Lucy Liu’s INSANE WARDROBE (decorative ties! playsuits! massive white bell bottoms at crime scenes!) and the gor blimey fake Englishness of the British characters, yes, even though played by British actors. Rhys Evans, I am particularly judging you.

A Very British Hotel Listen, the Mandarin Oriental is hardly my first choice for "very British", but I will not quibble because this programme is BRILLIANT, particularly the terrifying concierge, François-Xavier, who runs his exclusive fiefdom with the steely determination of an organised crime syndicate, but with considerably better grooming.

5. Fillon-watch
I have watched the convulsions of the French elections with great interest and even greater confusion. I don’t have anything intelligent to say about this, I simply note how gripping (and awful) it is.

6. Wimmin thoughts
I have been experiencing some strong negative feelings about the patriarchy for reasons that are unclear but may well be to do with my age/the somewhat oppressive nature of midlife bleh-ery/the state of the world/living in a house full of males, inc. dog and younger tortoises who were released briefly into the garden to take the sun and instantly started both fighting and trying to have sex with each other. My patriarchy sulk mainly takes the form of muttering, occasionally rising to ranting, usually in the basement in front of a pile of washing (this as you may recall is my soothing place). I feel I was insulated from the patriarchy in my childhood by the relationship between my mother (main breadwinner) and Prog Rock (most other stuff). I think I just thought everything sort of worked out rationally and fairly, despite spending all those years in Oxford and then the City. I was blind. This is not a complaint about my particular batch of males, I should say, who are fine, really, just about… I don’t know. The structural fucked-upness of everything. I’m 42, it’s about time my consciousness was raised, I suppose.

7. Vegan darkness
On a lighter note Mrs Trefusis came to visit and I made her come to the mad hipster vegan cocktail bar/restaurant. What I really mean by this is that it used to be a cocktail bar, but now - without really telling anyone - is has apparently become a restaurant where you can accessorily get cocktails, but where it will be heavily suggested that you eat vegan foods at the same time. The cocktails were delicious, still, but the rest is deeply eccentric. I recounted our whole 5 course menu to my spouse who paled in horror at the litany of dehydrated bean crackers, raw beets, various pastes and non-dairy "creams" and a supposedly sweet “tatin” made of a South American tuber I strongly suspect was actually a variety of potato. The oddness of the whole experience was compounded by a nearly 2 hour power cut, which meant vegan foods were sprung on you in the darkness in an even more alarming manner.

ANYWAY, this has not stopped me being desperate to try this: because I do actually love vegetables and so on, but of course my spouse is vehemently against the whole sordid business. Any Brussels dwellers (who don’t wish to kill me and wear my skin, though frankly it's presumptous and fanciful to imagine anyone would want that, my skin is in no state for wearing by anyone but me) fancy it?

8. I have finally made a 2017 Reading Page and uploaded January and February which were Not Impressive. Not the books, my reading habits, which were lazy and predictable. Book group is Ferrante-ing this month, so I suppose I had better knuckle down and try to rectify my 2 years of Ferrante-fail.

9. Oh, also my hideously deformed child (as M correctly calls my book) is out in paperback on the 6th of April. Here is its new incarnation:

If anyone can bear to stick up an Amazon review or, I don’t know, buy a copy for someone, that would be a sop to my continued sense of creative and commercial FAILURE.

On this happy note, percentages:

95% Som Saa anticipation (M and I are having a long-overdue Whining Whilst Eating Summit in London tonight).
5% Fuck everything.


(PS I know you only really come for pictures of ouipette, so here are two, one fabulous, one despairing.