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.



TwoLeggedWoman said...

Anything Bouchery is good enough for me! Sarah

Jonathan Lethbridge said...

accessorily - much underused
Weepette charging itself - superb

MargotLeadbetter said...

I started on the feminist rage at about 12 years old (I have 1 sister and 2 brothers, and guess which of us had to help around the house?) BUT my feminist consciousness has been raised sky high in recent years, mostly by Twitter. I am never sure whether this is a good thing or not. Only today I saw a tweet about how we pay VAT on sanitary protection in the UK, but NOT ON PORN MAGS. This so takes me back to my teen years and fills me with the same impotent rage, only I'm that much older and sadder and more jaded about it all now. And that's only one thing, out of hundreds.

Suzy said...

Bouchery looks fab.
I love vegetables.
Have you ever been to El Turko near Square De Meeus??

Juliette Menuet said...

Just finished your book - reading it in two days, mostly on the loo where I was hiding from work & family. So so well written. I am French (from Britanny) but have lived in London for 25 years. I recognised a lot from my own desires to leave my region for somewhere exciting. I'm a long time lurker so the book felt a bit like a great eastenders omnibus... in a (very) good way. Your friends are the true heroes of your book. (Phrase stolen from dolly alderton from her last column 2 weeks ago but you know what I mean). In my dreams you become the Tim dowling or Lucy Mangan of the guardian weekend and I get to read you every Saturday. Thank you again for your book. Catherine

Rosie said...

Good to have you back, Emma, and although the photos of your glorious ouipette are appreciated, I also come back to hear what you've been up to so please don't stay away for too long.

frau antje said...

95% Fuck everything.

5% Wait a minute, your skin has GOT to be better than mine, hmm.

Ivywindow said...

in re 2.;

Lardy Cake.

It will lead to good old-fashioned British cardiac arrest before the Scandis have a chance to get to you.

Cathie said...

My 10 y.o. picked maple brioche buns to cook from the Gail's bakery cookbook this morning but they take two days to make...and we live 250 metres from an actual Gail's bakery, so you can guess what my answer was. Think we are making cheese scones instead. I'd quite like to have a go at babka though, although I fear the timescale will be similar.
Ps am looking forward to reading your book in Easter hols.

Kirstin said...

Oh I am so glad you're back!! Your blog always cheers me and amuses me while I am stuck at my desk supporting 3 executives in the world of academia. I am somewhat concerned that my sniggers and muffled snorts of hilarity will expose the fact that I am not reading something work related.
Cooking wise I made some great slow cooker cinnamon buns the other week and they really weren't terribly difficult, top points really. Already thinking of stuffing with perhaps chocolate spread and choc chips.

Waffle said...

Oh, Catherine, such kind words, thank you! I am delighted.

Kirstin - SLOW COOKER? How the hell does that work?

Suzy - No, it's buffet-ish, isn't it? Do you recommend?

Suzy said...

Definitely recommend - they sell by weight, and they do sell meat and chicken but I could eat their vegetables all day. Aubergine with yoghurt, grilled and stuffed veg style stuff. No.1 son the vegetarian also loves it.

Jo said...

So glad you recommended Dadland, it is a joy. Weirdly, after it won the Costa prize, I found out that it was about the father of a friend of mine (the friend's sister wrote the book), which made it utterly gripping to read. (In all the hours I spent sitting in said friend's kitchen drinking tea and discussing the weather etc., he never ONCE mentioned that his father was a secret agent in the war, FFS.) I loved how the author used the book to vent her lifetime of rage at her stepmother, and how she shamelessly admits stealing her father's letters from her cousin. Bliss. Brave and funny and very moving.
I have pre-ordered We'll Always Have Paris, having been too mean to buy the hardback (sorry). Can't wait.

Patience_Crabstick said...

I don't own a lot of kitchen gadgets, but my dough scraper changed my life. I don't know how I existed before.

Kirstin said...

I'm not sure how the cinnamon buns work in the slow cooker but they do and they're delicious (I've swapped them out for butterscotch buns too and they're also really seriously good). Here is the link to the blog/recipe: So, so easy and delicious.

Alison said...

I haven't tried to verify this story, but found it cheering. Tortoise hangs out (most likely) in storage room for 30 years, munching on grubs in old furniture.

Alison said...

Also, I feel you could get much more mileage out of that underwater picture.... What is happening?????

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