Tuesday, 27 June 2017


Last Dutch class of the year yesterday, during which our teacher put up a document which set out all the mistakes we made in the exam - not collectively, INDIVIDUALLY. By name. FACE YOUR FAILURES, STUDENTS. I was first up and the list was loooong and shaming, many poorly structured sentences and off-the-wall verb choices, but I was still on a high from managing to crowbar the phrase “onnodige verplaatsingen” (unnecessary journeys) into my oral exam, after spending the entire night with it trotting around in my head. Post oral debrief:

Teacher: That was some rich vocabulary you used there, nice one, I was impressed.
E: But it’s exactly the phrase you told us to use. You wrote it down, word for word, on the blog.
Teacher: Yeah, but still.

I got 90% on the oral exam, better than my exam partner Elena who is married to a Dutch speaker and who terrified me with her hugely long, sophisticated sentences full of complex grammatical constructions, which I answered with pithy (= basic) two word comebacks. I have huge holes in my knowledge, grammar and vocabulary, but somehow I blind the teacher with my plausible accent. I’m not proud of it, but it’s handy. We have a different teacher for the next level, so I might need to up my game.

This was my fourth Dutch level/class, and the higher I have got, the less interesting the class has become,. I mean, they’re all very nice and everything, but nearly everyone is Belgian and quite middle class now, whereas before it was a mad old mix of nationalities and backgrounds, Chechen students, Iranian professors, Lithuanian trailing spouses, unemployed Brits, French baggage handlers, the Indian bloke who just used to copy everything I wrote down… I mean, how am I going to learn the Rwandan national anthem now?

I have been going to yoga for a few months. (I go with my husband, it is our new Thing. We make for pretty improbable yogis, me idle/anxious/incapable of not comparing self to others, him goal oriented/alpha/inflexible, neither of us sylphlike or wearing leggings with weird geometric patterns also he insists on us going on his motorbike whilst playing Dutch dance music stations on its stereo at high volume. This sends the delicate, beautiful ladies in heavily patterned yoga leggings skittering in all directions). Once again, I make the same observation about sport/exertion: my thighs are genetically programmed to bulk up dramatically when exposed to even the mildest physical activity.

I don’t know what the evolutionary function of this was in my forefathers' Celtic bog, but I am a prime specimen of whatever it was: a couple of lousy warrior poses and I have thighs like an all-in wrestler. It is tiresome. Also, then the giant thighs request more food to sustain themselves, yes, this is biologically coherent, shut up, result: I am fatter than before when I did no sport whatsoever, more tired and achy and very cross about it. I can only hope that it is somehow stopping me from curling over into full Mrs Overall and is thus, on some level, worth it. I mean, do I have less back pain? Yes. But I have compensatory pains all over the rest of my body. Is it worth it? I do not know, but we've paid for the full year now, so I'm locked in. Namaste.

Look at me with all my improving activities. They are over for the week, let me reassure you, full inertia will now be resumed. Son is watching Dexter when banned from killing strangers on the internet, so I spend large swathes of every day - even mornings! The decadence! - staring dully at a programme I have already watched. Living my best life. 


25% Chausson aux Pommes
25% Fitbit irritation
25% 'Took on a job that scares me' fear
25% Picard salt and pepper crisps. This is one of those Bourjois/Chanel situations.  I swear these are Burts Crisps by another name and no one is going to convince me otherwise. It even says "produit élaboré en Royaume Uni" on the packet. *taps nose*


Monday, 26 June 2017

The consolations of poultry

Did almost nothing at weekend and spent it torn between basic animal enjoyment of idleness and MAD WITH BOREDOM. Got into a strop yesterday about how bored I was but of course I really had no one to blame but myself, which was even more enraging.

I sometimes forget that living here means I have to actually get organised if I don't want to die of boredom on Sundays, that or become a poet of the dusty, gentle, ice cream eating, dog walking repetitive madness of suburban Brussels (nope). This was never a problem in Spital Square (where just going out of the front door brought prostitutes, fighting, the upmarket, Gilbert & George) or Newman Street (the gaudy promise of the east end of Oxford Street, the hare krishnas, or the actual fecking British Museum if you were feeling classier). But, you know, there is the consolation of chickens here I suppose.


Went to Midi market on Sunday morning and became fixated on a pair of boxer shorts that were black with FUCK OFF written on them in huge orange fluo letters. Such angry pants! I couldn't help but feel they were speaking to me. What are you saying exactly when you wear them? I mean, yes, you're saying FUCK OFF but what else? Are you enjoying secretly knowing your genitals are telling your boss/fellow commuters/family to fuck off? (Yes) (Obviously). I want some.

On Sunday afternoon after an abortive attempt to go to the cinema (thwarted by a series of diversions cunningly installed by the STIB in many unexpected places), we went around the local brocante, though this is a far too classy word for people just dumping shit out of their houses onto a tarpaulin and asking a punchy €5 for it. We played our usual "find the worst item" game, but since I spotted a hank of what appeared to be human hair (blonde, very dry) in the first two minutes, it became somewhat pointless. There is a new sinkhole in the brocante hosting street and a madwoman tried to engage us in conversation about it, the gist of which was that it wouldn't have happened in Ancient Rome.


Is anyone else watching that Life Swap thing on BBC2? I am very much enjoying it. It is not at all like Wife Swap because all the people on it so far have been thoughtful, open and interesting and not attention hungry maniacs who want to fight about everything in sweaty incoherence. I don't have anything clever to say about it, I am just enjoying (esp the guy from Guyana who said that a British sandwich was "like an old dead fish").


Woken at 5:30 by dog coming into bedroom, which is his new neurosis: he comes in early in the morning and either stands next to the bed staring at me whilst licking his lips or clicks round and round in scrabbly pawed anxiety until one of us cracks and gets up to shout at him. There is a third option which is shut bedroom door, but then he leans against it, scrabbles, and cries. Husband thinks it is because he has developed a fear of the bin lorry, but it's not as if he only does it on bin days. He does it EVERY day, possibly because the bin lorry might be coming. I might need to do some kind of bin lorry flooding therapy with him to get past this eg. spend the day at the local dump which could well be considerably more productive than a normal day for me, on current performance.

Actually, he has been strange all day, sitting under or next to my chair, staring at me and trembling, which is very distracting when you are trying to scratch your infected mosquito bites and read the entire internet. I just went to empty the washing machine and he followed me, then hid behind a sheet and stared out at me, just two mournful eyes and nose visible. Now he's back, standing and/or staring.

He looks so tired, as well he might.


1. Someone is stuck in the abandoned mine shaft and I have failed to understand;
2. The beginning of the end, though he is only nine and whippets are supposed to live for ever;
3. A Phase.

If whatever it is continues he's going to need one of those glade pet prozac plug ins they advertise on telly. I have long wondered if they work on people too, perhaps I will finally get the chance to find out?

Best French expressions from Le Soir/Le Vif on Twitter today

Pénis de troll
Exosquelette prometteur
Engouement pour des gâteaux en forme de crotte

How are you?

Thursday, 22 June 2017

(Give me) Swelter

My dog is a sexist ingrate part two

Over recent weeks I have had increasing difficulty persuading the dog to leave the house in the morning for a walk (a lovely, long, off the lead walk in a park). I have a selection of short videos depicting this, but am too lazy to attempt to upload them. Basically he sits in the corner, fixes me with an eye of hate and refuses to get up. You may attach a lead to him and gently tug at it, he does not give a shit, though may coldly look away from you to emphasise how Not Ok this walk thing is. In the evening, by contrast, when my husband and I take him out, he positively bounds to the door, thrilled to be offered the chance to trail boringly around the block and probably spend 5 minutes tied up outside Picard.

My husband believes this is because the dog does not like MY walks (long, entertaining, dog-focused), but is totally fine with his (short, boring, human-focused). I was not convinced but he demonstrated that this is indeed the case with a galling degree of success this morning by managing to get the dog up and by the door in less than a minute. I wouldn’t say the dog looked thrilled, exactly, but he obeyed without question. How sharper than a serpent’s tooth, etc. He didn’t get what he wanted anyway because I still took him on a long, entertaining walk to the park (nb as soon as we're out, he's fine and expresses no further protest).

Hang on, I'm actually trying to upload the video, let's see if this works. It does! Two parts!

Summer (cont)

The heat has got to my stomach and I am bloated like an ailing Yorkshire Vet sheep and crampy (yes, I know this is pathetic, ouipette is similarly afflicted, we are both gurgling away, we are creatures of the frozen north) so after a morning of biliously chewing crackers and complaining, I have moved into the basement. I am typing this with laptop balanced on ironing board. The view is terrible and the lighting effects DHSS-chic, but it is DELICIOUSLY cool.

(Update: it's actually too cold, I had to come back up to the hell-furnace, but it's good to have the option)


My hairdresser cancelled on me due to being famous and in demand (not a problem anyone will ever have with me, no sirree) and i have had to reschedule wig cut for July. Given I basically have NO hair left at the back, this is problematic, but I am just going with it, on the basis that at on the odd occasions I leave the house in the next two weeks no one will be looking a short cross middle aged woman in Gap Girlfriend Chinos when there is an endless expanse of nubile flesh to contemplate in this weather. I look like an absolute knob in all hats, so that isn’t an option.

Also, I updated the reading page: quality not quantity this month!

Wednesday, 21 June 2017


Reading (god, I should update that too, sigh, soon)
Simultaneously reading David Sedaris Diaries and Diary of a Provincial Lady which has made for some confusing sleepy late night moments when I forget which one I’m reading, quaaludes or black taffeta? I am thinking I could do some short diary style entries here to kickstart the lapsed blog habit. We shall see. I seem to spend hours every day just staring dully at the tortoises as they try to ram raid their way into the house to eat the dog's food and sexually assault each other. It's my plan canicule, or possibly my Plan Vigi-Dugong as I told M yesterday, ie. Vigipirate but with more aimless wallowing and minimal leaving the house. I don't strictly speaking know how dugongs feel about Haagen-Dazs mini salted caramel ice creams on sticks, but I'm sure if they were introduced they would be in favour.

Today is the first day that is officially too hot for my uniform/fetish, the Gap Girlfriend Twill Stripe Chino and I am furious about it. I haven’t worn a skirt for, ooh, 18 months minimum and it’s not going well (aside: I tried to discuss the fact that I have in my middle years developed a major downer on feminine clothes in my Dutch oral on Monday, but it rapidly span out of control). My legs don’t go with anything, they are Shetland pony sturdy and now that I am confronted with them up close and not clothed in fabric I realise they are not just blue and dusty, which I knew, but also veiny. Ugh. I'm very body positive as long as I don't have to examine the actual reality of my body but in this heat it is unavoidable. Also: wig sweat.

Family Life
Exam season (80% lounging around the house, 19% reluctant revision, 1% actual exams) has dragged itself to a long-overdue close. I learned a number of things about Belgian geography, Latin and advertising methods, all of which I am now seeking to forget. The boys are now home, basically, FOREVER. I write locked, sweltering in my attic while they kills strangers online. It is a horrifyingly noisy business. They sound like a gang of male elephant seals fighting on a beach, all deep, throaty bellows and I can tell you that I have achieved absolutely nothing for the past few weeks except tidying two cupboards and preventing an ant invasion of the kitchen.

New household rules must be established to deal with this terrifyingly long stretch of adolescent freedom, eg. you must get dressed at least twice a week, no killing strangers online before ten, don’t stare at your mother with undisguised hostility and scorn when she suggests you could read a book or that it's ok to be bored because boredom allows true creativity to emerge.

Whenever anyone is really awful I suggest enrolling them on a survival course I keep getting emails about, where you have to make your own bivouac and hunt rats and learn about hypothermia THE HARD WAY. I think it sounds like good apocalypse training which is clearly necesssary in 2017 and if results are poor, I will be sending them both off for a bracing week of rat trapping in the Ardennes.

Minor altercation with elderly neighbour recently who called me out for the heinous crime of not saying “bonjour” to her as I walked past. Immediate reaction, and one I pursued, was to gaslight her, claiming that I had in fact said hello and she hadn’t heard me (I hadn't, she scares me), but on mature reflection a better and more long-term solution would have been to explain to her that I am English and that in my country the polite thing to do in an urban environment is to pretend the other person doesn’t even EXIST. And that saying hello, for me, is basically an act of aggression.

Have turned, over the past few months, into a person who likes cheese, which is a troubling development after years of cheese refusenickery and neshness. Still only goat or melted, but the goat habit is getting out of hand. Had to have a v confusing discussion with man in cheese shop while trying to select a new goat, due to the paucity of my cheese vocab.

E: I want something that isn’t too crémeux

Cheese guy: Oh, so something coulant?

E: UGH NO, DEFINITELY NOT COULANT. I think coulant means what I thought crémeux meant.

CG: Sec? Pas trop sec?

E: I do not know what those words mean applied to cheese. Is frais a thing I might want? Do I like frais?

CG (indicating cheese): This is very frais.

E: Oh. I tried that. I didn’t like it, it didn’t taste of anything. Maybe I need it a bit more affiné. I like that one (pointing) and that one (also pointing).

CG (losing patience, but very politely): You should take this one then.

E: Is it crémeux?

CG: Ye… no?

I bought his cheese. It was a quadrillion Euros and I don’t like it much, but am working my way through it bravely.

Belgian news over past few months
- Prime Minister deafened by race starting pistol
- Medical students encouraged to show cleavage at graduation
- New political crisis precipitated by the guy who looks like Laura Palmer’s dad from Twin Peaks who leads the orange party deciding he won’t work with the socialists any more, because the socialists are in the throes of yet another corruption scandal.
- Profusion of holes throughout Brussels making public transport a magical mystery tour orchestrated by friendly but basically clueless blokes in fluorescent tabards.


God, it was amazing. Look how much the children are enjoying themselves.

Given that this was a trip that combined RELICS (we trekked to Conques, which has the skull of Sainte Foi in a bejewelled case, stolen by some monks in the 9th century in a heist that was ten years in preparation) and EQUINES I was in ecstasy the whole time (well, ok, not when I found out we were sharing a dormitory with ten pilgrims on the hottest Ascension Day since 1900). I am now plotting a donkey fund to add to my goat fund (current balance - €5 and some dust). If you want to go donkey trekking (IT IS AMAZING), go here. The baby donkeys that refused to be born when we were there will be born now and if there is anything nicer than a baby donkey, I cannot imagine what it is (a baby donkey with a coffee religieuse in one of its paniers?). I wrote about it for the Observer mag, I will post a link when it comes out.

More soon, this outlet may be my only lifeline to sanity, muttering in the basement is no longer doing it for me.

What have you been up to? I know what the witch doctor spammers have been up to, but how about the rest of you?