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? 


Simon said...

I am shocked and appalled that you ever doubted the awesomeness of cheese. If you're looking for something not produced by cows, might I suggest pecorino?

Anonymous said...

I love the photo of your boys exuding mid-teen'ness, if that is a word.

My 22 year old has passed that stage but he does love baby donkeys:

I suspect he would love the donkey trek.

Anonymous said...

It has been HOT and sunny here in Spain for the last 3 weeks, while my beloved back in the US has had cool days and lots of rain. A balance would be nice. My regular wardrobe of black summer dresses works better when the sun and heat are less intense. Otherwise daily wandering through the shops, a little bit of teaching, and a fair amount of wine most days at lunch. So pretty good, knock on wood.
I would love baby donkeys, but the noises the adults can make are something else.

Unknown said...

I am pleased you have stopped being a cheese refusenik. Good goat's cheese is my favourite, though there are not many cheeses I'd not eat (maybe not the one with worms, or larvae, I'm not sure, that they have in Sicily).
I'm reading Priestdaddy, and loving it so much I doubt I will like any other book half as much in 2017, or even longer. I wish I had lots of money, so that I could buy hardbacks and send them to all the internet friends abroad.
I have also bought David's Diaries, but haven't started yet (I adore him).

Alan said...

Despite many visits to France over the years we had never noticed the existence of the Vigipirates. This year, barrelling down the motorway towards Dijon we came up behind two identical Renault vans with “VIGIPIRATE’ in big white letters across the rear windows. I assumed it was a small underfunded rock band on tour but the following day in Dijon the same vans pulled into the forecourt of the Ducal Palace and, defying all the laws of physics, 8 uniformed men unfolded themselves from within, popped around to the boots, helped themselves from a range of assault weapons, and wandered off around the city in RayBans and berets.
My wife was not slow to notice that the Vigipirates appear to recruit exclusively from those blessed Frenchmen considered too tall and good looking even to be Pompiers. I don’t know what they do to the enemy but they made me feel pretty inadequate.

cruella said...

Randonné in southern France! Gorges! Limestone plateaus! Wild orchids! Vultures! Wild swimming in Tarn et Jonte! Oh, and the palest of rosé and a swim in the Méditerranée. Then I sort of woke up to work all hours and my daughter's graduation where I had taken upon myself to DO EVERYTHING food and party wise. Very épuisée now.

Oxfordshire said...

There is a fab goat cheese coated in ash! Inside is white and almost putty texture slightly salted. Cendrier????

MJ said...

Family life pretty much sums up my life at the moment. One child is finished exams and the other will finish in 12 hours. (Wait. That sounds wrong. The exam is not 12 hours long but starts tomorrow morning and in 12 hours it will be a free-for-all here.) It has been a bit of a slog getting the revision to happen.
I'm going to institute your rules in my household. Also one must have breakfast before 10 and I'm not required to make it.
One of my kids hated cheese for years. And then, for no reason that I can discern, started eating it and now will eat any cheese that crosses his path. Me. I think I could live on cheese alone. I sometimes (always?) have to remind myself that I had cheese and bread for breakfast so I should try to diversify at lunch time.
NOw, I'm off to check your book recommendations which have never failed me.

Linda said...

Donkeys are the best. I just rescued two (Lilas and Tulipe) who were bound for the abattoir, a mother and daughter, and I fall in love with them all over again every day. They're small and lovely and do occasionally make noise, mainly to remind me that it's carrot time. It's always carrot time. Stop by and see them if you're ever in Le Perche (region famous for Percheron horses in Basse-Normandie).

On the cheese front, I tend to avoid cow cheeses and go for the brebis and chevres of the cheese domain. Not sure why - I just like them better.

WOL said...

Last Saturday’s high was not 110 F (43.3 C) as promised. It was 112 F (44.4 C). Not sorry I missed it. Slept through it. Only sane way to deal with temperatures like that is to become nocturnal. Thankfully, the temps have settled down now and hover around 100 F(37-38 C). I am in N. Tx, US, roughly at the same latitude as Damascus, Syria.

Count your blessings. They had to close the airport in Phoenix AZ because it was so hot the tarmac on the runway melted.

Häagen-Dazs is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Oh, and frozen peach daiquiris are a very cogent argument for same.

Waffle said...


Waffle said...

Catharine - If I go into the cheese shop and ask for an ashtray my reputation will be even worse than it is now.

cruella said...

Hahahaha, yes, but I know that cheese! Delish!

just curious said...

Timely article about being the parent of a teenager:

Nimble said...

Visited the Bay Area (Berkeley and San Francisco) in May. It lived up to its reputation for freezing tourists. Sunny but chilly every day. I could have packed a fleece layer but just couldn't believe I would need it... We hiked out in Marin to greet the Pacific one day which was gorgeous. We got to hiking because my husband refused to sit through the commencement ceremony for my nephew at UC Berkeley. Bless his selfish unconformist heart. I would have caved to family expectation. But instead we saw quail, butterflies, wildflowers and the beautiful scary ocean. Still got to enjoy the graduate's company afterwards so instead of being justly punished for our selfishness, we won!

The traffic/parking/population pressure of the cities were thrilling in small doses. And it was a relief to come home to podunkville.

Oxfordshire said...

There is also one round goat cheese similarly delicious rather daintily wrapped in nettle (!) leaves.. ;-)

CJ said...

I laughed out loud at the picture of the children enjoying themselves. And made a note of the Not Looking At One's Mother With Open Hostility rule, I shall definitely be imposing that over the summer holiday, which does not start here for another four weeks and five hours.

Patience_Crabstick said...

Your requirement that your sons get dressed at least twice a week is similar to mine that my son be vertical before 3:00pm each day. I'm not having much success. But this is his last summer at home before leaving for a university and I feel like we ought to be spending it in a more meaningful way.

jual rumput alfalfa said...

Yeah.. Randonné in southern France! Gorges! Limestone plateaus! Wild orchids! Vultures! Wild swimming in Tarn et Jonte! Oh, and the palest of rosé and a swim in the Méditerranée. Then I sort of woke up to work all hours and my daughter's graduation where I had taken upon myself to DO EVERYTHING food and party wise. Very épuisée now. :)

Unknown said...

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 ...


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Yeah.. Randonné in southern France! Gorges! Limestone plateaus! Wild orchids! Vultures! Wild swimming in Tarn et Jonte! Oh, and the palest of rosé and a swim in the Méditerranée.

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