Sunday, 30 April 2017

Just another dog

I try and talk to my son about the newly composed Magritte themed opera he is playing violin in.

E: So is there singing? Speaking? Dance?

Child: Yeah

E: Is there a story?

Child: (Incredulous stare) Huh?

E: I mean, do you know what the story is?

Child: No cos it’s in Dutch (insolent upward inflection to delivery to convey my great stupidity)?

E: What actually happens?

Child (sighing): There’s a giant coffin with, like, a bowler hat on.


Child: I’m actually going to bed now bye

I suppose I will find out on 6th May.

I try to communicate with my other son, on a school trip

Child leaves, alone, on foot, at 5:30 am. I instruct him he must tell me when he arrives so I know he hasn't been abducted.

Several hours pass

E: Have you been abducted?

Further 2 hour interval

Child: i haven't been abducted

Several days later

E: You ok?

Several more days later

E: Assuming you're still alive, do you know when you get back?

Time at which school party supposed to return comes and goes.

E: Shall I order you a pizza?

1 hour after putative return time


Doorbell rings, it is child.

(incidentally, he has just told me he "doesn't care" what we have for dinner or what cake I make/purchase for his birthday and I think my heart is a bit broken)

My dog is a misogynist (or he just doesn't like me)

I have realised gradually, unpleasantly, how very much my dog prefers my husband to me, despite the incontrovertible fact that I am the only person in this household who walks him and feeds him (dog, not husband, quoique).  He also prefers my older son to me, but at least my older son occasionally looks up from watching videos of morons playing video games to throw his plush measles toy, so that seems more justified.

Evidence #1: when we go out for a walk, me, husband and dog and I cross the road to eg. throw a bag of shit away (picking up shit = another thing that is mysteriously a job that only I can do), Ouipette is wholly indifferent to my momentary absence. However, if husband moves even fractionally away from us, Ouipette loses his shit, refuses to move and stares around wildly and inconsolably until husband returns.

Evidence #2 despite not really liking being stroked, Ouipette will submit to lengthy strokings and ear pullings from husband in the evenings. If I attempt to stroke him, he moves away, coldly, much like a teenage boy.

E: (outraged) You're a SEXIST, Oscar, you fucker. This isn't how I raised you!

Child: The thing is, Dad's the alpha, isn't he. You're just ... another dog.


If you don't know what it is, it's probably a deer

Yesterday we found this list (scroll down) of authorised mammals you can keep as pets in Brussels and wow, I am excited. Bison? Or a spiny mouse? A gayal looks cool too. If anyone can work out what an "ynomys social" is, I would be fascinated to know. Would I like it? I'm not sure about the "social" part.

I have put up my March reading, btw. The Ariel Levy is especially great.

Thursday, 27 April 2017

Things I would have tweeted if I were not on a Twitter break

(obviously some of them would have required several tweets and hopefully some of them I would have thought twice about bothering to tweet, though I can offer no guarantee of that)

1. Whatever is currently growing, flowering, pollinating, shedding in Brussels needs to take a long, hard look at itself before my throat closes up entirely.

2. I'm beginning to think Gap is knowingly exploiting me and my weakness for its "Girlfriend Twill Stripe Chino". Having fallen hopelessly in love with said trouser and having started to stockpile it in a range of colours, Gap has started to torment me by sending me special discount codes just after I order a pair. Look, it says, today you get 30% off! 35% and free shipping! 20%!  45% AND A A PONY! ACT NOW OFFER ENDS AT MIDNIGHT! Soon there will be no space and no money left in the world, just me and a massive pile of fairly ordinary trousers, into which I will be weeping. It's chinos for dinner again, kids.

3. Further Gap Girlfriend Twill Stripe Chino thought: these trousers, which are tight but not skinny jean tight, reveal to me by their fit that my left leg is fatter than my right leg. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE, they do the same exercise and consume the same foods. Maybe it is for the same reason that my left foot is always scaly and dry and my left ankle always swollen, things I attribute to a random mystery accident in 2005, where I woke up one morning with my left leg black with bruising up to the knee and no idea how it happened ('had you possibly been drinking?" the doctor enquired delicately, but I truly hadn't). I think I must have fallen off a high heel and not noticed because I was functionally insane in 2005, running on citalopram, shopping and miso soup. Anyway. My left leg is still fucked, it would appear.

4. Shape of every week: Monday galloping eye-popping anxiety, Tuesday still anxious, Wednesday tired and resentful, Thursday whispering "I hate everyone" every couple of hours, Friday morning just saying "fuck everything" out loud over and over whilst eating piles of things covered in butter, Friday afternoon, blank staring.

5. Dreamed that I caught eldest child red handed using a drug that my subconscious decided to name "Bio-Huff". BIO HUFF. Is that ... organic solvent? How does that work, subconscious? My subconscious is a dick.

6. Having time to worry about whether you are facilitating the patriarchy or are merely entrapped by it or both is probably the definition of not having proper problems to worry about (this is referring to myself, obviously, I'm hardly in a position to criticise anyone else's preoccupations).

7. Phrase "cheery picking" seen in document I am currently editing is extremely pleasing. See also phrase "salty and sweat buffet" spotted on an Instagram post.


Also pleasing in that Wikipedia entry:

"By 1884, Gauguin had moved with his family to Copenhagen, Denmark, where he pursued a business career as a tarpaulin salesman. It was not a success: He could not speak Danish, and the Danes did not want French tarpaulins."

I love Wikipedia entries. Anne Demeulemeester's claims her father was a "chicory professor"

9. More pleasing adventures in agenda writing:

"Het Zesde Metaal had their fourth album 'Calais' coming out last year and we were stunned! Even though they are singing in West-Flemish dialect, which is practically incomprehensible for the biggest part of Belgium and the rest of the world, everyone feels it, that folky music. The electronic elements on the new album are a real enrichement."

10. Jami Attenberg All Grown Up - started at 11pm, had finished by 8am next morning (and I slept quite reasonably between those hours too). SO GREAT.

11. Level of sleep deprivation where you call hail "gail", spell October "Otobre" and can't remember what the name of the cutting tool used in conjunction with a fork is = the stage at which you should probably step away from your writing based tasks for the day.

12. Four hours of Dutch class entirely on vocabulary relating to electrical appliances = at least 3.9 hours too many, but now I could probably write trilingual manuals for Van Den Borre (vous avez bien choisi) if all my work dries up.

That's it for now. More thoughts as I have them. I am feeling oppressed by the need to update the Reading page, because I have done MOUNTAINS of reading in last 2 months, so you can look forward (or not) to some extremely succinct reviews.

Oh! Also, I sent all the winners ("winners") their books Tuesday last week. Some of them have even arrived. Are you one of the lucky ones? Or has Bastardpost sent your prize to Bermuda?

Friday, 14 April 2017

Horse! Shops! Prizes!

Hello! Here is a small horse with no context whatsoever. He was very friendly, even when I insisted on putting my arms around him and inhaling his horse scent for fifteen minute stretches without his explicit consent (I gave him some carrots though).


The Easter holidays are proving interminable, again. I think I’ve just become monstrously intolerant and misanthropic with age, which means that the sight of giant lunking unwashed teenagers in pyjamas staring at screens for 10 hours a day (WHAT, what am I supposed to do, take them to a museum?) is increasingly irritating to me, especially when they appear around 2pm and quiz me on food options as if I were their sodding concierge-slash-butler. F is just back from ten days in China (China! In my day we hitchhiked to Filey, ate seagulls and slept on a bench, etc etc) with no internet, so I don’t feel too bad about him filling his eyes with crap. L went to Majorca, though I think he just lay around looking at YouTube for a week as he would have done here but with slightly better weather so he should probably be smited with scorpions into some improving activity, but I simply can’t be arsed. Also, I have work to do and cannot be spending my days smiting and catering (Smiting and Catering: A Mother's Lot).

The foregoing meant that our trip to Yorkshire last week was sans enfants, which was an interesting glimpse into our future. Good: no aggro, negotiating, complaints, demands for expensive steak in pubs and no difficulty in getting out of the house at 8am. Bad: tendency to wear fleece unchecked by teenscorn and that airless feeling when all the (bad tempered, obstreperous, but also very funny) youthful vitality is gone from the room and it’s just … us? We’ll need another dog, for sure. We do still seem to be broadly compatible, which is a relief though there may be a disparity in energy levels, there were lots of conversations along these lines:

Spouse: What shall we do NOW

Me: Sssh, why so loud, I thought I’d just do some sitting. In silence.

Spouse: I’ll just go and take something to pieces then and HIT IT WITH A HAMMER.

We also drank a lot of gin and walked up a lot of hills, and I read a mountain of books, which was ideal (will update book page soon). Getting home has been melancholy, though at least Hillary has been contained for a fortnight so we came home to a sprinkling of actual grass in the backyard, which was both welcome and surprising.


One of our agreed-upon activities (this is always shaming to confess in front of Prog Rock who lives the life of a holy hermit, existing only on lentils, Sainsbury's Basic Range apples, Le Monde Diplomatique and Russian literature, but we face up to our grossly acquisitive nature bravely) was to go to the York Designer Outlet, yet again. The Designer Outlet is a very strange place and you feel like the worst dregs of end-stage capitalism as you walk around it, mindlessly consuming, but if you can take the guilt and self-loathing, it has some excellent stuff. 40% of my wardrobe comes from the Margaret Howell outlet and I also found my favourite Paul Smith silk swimmers blouse there.

Margaret Howell proved very disappointing this time (in the sense that everything still cost an actual king’s ransom and I could not justify buying any of it), but I got what I THINK is a nice fine grey wool coat from Jaeger (RIP), because I am 130 years old. It was 112 pounds reduced from 350, which seemed a pretty decent reduction, though whether I will ever wear it remains to be seen. I would describe it as “dressing gown style” if this can be described as a style (it can’t).

The past

I went to the funeral of one of my former teachers from Quaker school whilst in York (one of the loveliest, kindest, sunniest men I have ever met, his coffin was papered with pages from the Guardian because he was an avid reader and did the crossword every day) which was sad, but also fascinating, since many of my other former teachers were also there and during silent meeting for worship I was able to look around the room and try and work out who was who. They divided into: wholly and entirely unchanged and changed beyond all recognition but were all delightful. The maths teacher said she recognised me because I "still stand in the same way" and one of the English teachers said she recognised my hair which is interesting since it is not the same hair at all, and indeed not even mine. It was nice, generally, to be in a Quaker environment again. They are extremely sound and gentle and kind, and being around them taught me to sit still for hours on end, something no one else in my family can manage for more than three minutes before dismantling the remote control and fiddling with its battery case until murder is the only reasonable option.

The present

It is Good Friday which is not a holiday in Belgium so I am waiting for comments on a piece of work whilst undressed giants slump around me and I have just realised that due to some horrific miscalculation and despite having carefully bought a packet in M and S in preparation, I do not have a single hot cross bun. I am going to have to compensate this evening with my newly acquired Yorkshire tea gin, which I believe is the beverage our saviour would favour if he happened to be around and looking for a stiffener in spring 2017.

Competition time

My book came out in paperback while I was away and I have just taken delivery of twenty copies, which seems somewhat overkill-y, and is probably more copies than have actually sold, so shall I do a small giveaway? If you would like a copy, I will give 8 of them away to the first people to comment and tell me why they would like one (dough scraper, door stop, filling for wet shoes), though obviously I am not going to promise Bastardpost will actually get it to your house, this is frequently too much to ask from my postal nemeses.

Excited? I bet you are. If you want even more of me, I have a piece in Red this month about how all my friends live in the computer.

Here is the dog looking superior in the N Yorks sunshine. I can tell you he wasn't looking at all superior 24 hours earlier when he was on a terrible comedown from the sedatives we give him to survive the ferry crossing. We had to wrap him in a towel and leave him on a chair in the kitchen until he recovered, looking for all the world like Whistler's mother. I did not take a picture of that because it seemed cruel, but now I slightly regret it.

(Important question: do other people cheat their Fitbits? I need to know)