Sunday, 30 December 2012

And Breathe

Guess what happens when you work all year without a break?  Yeah, you get sick.  I am, quite literally, sick and tired.  If you will permit me to be uncharacteristically self-pitying:

I have a dreadful cough so bad I cannot lay down.  This makes going to bed very difficult and I was steaming my head at 4am, in order to lay down without coughing, vomiting or choking.  I'm going to find a doctor tomorrow.  What comes up (excuse me) is clear, so I'm fairly sure there's no actual infection.

My sprained thumb is still sprained.  Old people take a while to heal.

My zip-wire back is still hurting, after more than a year.  Yes, I know.  I have someone I can see now.

And I seem to have eczema on my legs and the back of my head.

Apart from that everything is fine.  But yes, don't work all year again without a break.   Not unless you want to fall apart, and not in a Bonnie Tyler way.

Inevitably, with the wet and fulsome new year waiting round the bend, thoughts turn to future things.  Here is a list of what I'd like to happen.  Some might call them "goals".  The less goal-orientated might call it a list.  Some things are more realistic than others.

  1. Get some furniture.
  2. Have some friends to use the furniture.
  3. Actually finish the two books I have started writing, whose characters cycle round my head aimlessly.
  4. Lose a bit of weight and look a bit nicer.
  5. Wear feathers and glitter on stage and nothing else.
  6. Master at least one language and make another into a pet.
  7. But first of all regain health, full mobility, and feel damned excited about where I live.

Enjoy the end and beginning of your years.  I shall be celebrating with a bowl of hot water and Vicks vapour rub.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Unlucky Heather

Well it's going all right.  I'm a shuttle in the loom of industry between Gent and Brux, like many people.  Somehow we all manage it, with our little drooping sleeps on the train.  But moving to Gent is probably the best move I ever made.  The glass and concrete roads around my work have razor wire barriers haphazardly congregating at the corners.  We are very near where it all happens you see.  The sharpened heart of Europe.

In the quiet and dark morning I wait in the lee of the sparkly reindeer and the Castle for my reliable tram.  That's the best part of the journey.  And I'm picking up some Dutch.  It is the Dutch of train station announcements, and of overlooked newspaper headlines.  I can understand basic questions.  It will, no doubt, take years.  Years and years and years. 

It is now the downhill slalom to Christmas which shall be spent, as is usual, in Paris.  That always sounds so glamorous, but Christmas day is basically my daughter and I cooking on two rings, drinking lots of fizzy wine, and then playing Trivial Pursuit.  I look forward to sleeping a lot and not moving for some considerable time.

Oh and by the way, my good fortune in the dating stakes has travelled with me from the capital.  I met a young chap last week off the internet, as one does.  We were going to meet again and he cancelled not once but twice in the same weekend, the second time with ten minutes' notice.  I'd got dressed and everything.  I think I was cursed at birth by a woman selling lucky heather. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Mixed Bag

Today was the first day I went properly exploring, although I am slightly impaired at the moment by a commuting injury.

At the risk of boring people who might already have read it on Facebook...Friday morning:  walking along a black tiled walkway next to the station, that was wet and possibly oily from the bus station, and that is bordered on the right by fenced-off building work, I looked up at the board to see that my train was on time.  Unknown to me there was a sloping bit of the walkway - a sort of dropped kerb - that tilted away under the fence.  Very difficult to see given that it was dark and the tile was dark and wet.  On this occasion it took me with it.  I fell extremely hard on my hand, and my foot got stuck under the fence.  Wriggling my foot free from my boot, I clawed up the fence to standing, helped by two very nice ladies; one of whom said she had done that exact same thing,  and the other who rescued my boot from the fence monster.

Anyway, I'm in pain and can't do some things.  I have gel, a cold pack and have ordered a support off the Ebay. Thankfully, given the nature of my work, my typing is unaffected.  I've typed a strong letter to the project managers of the building work.   

Despite being impaired, I have been exploring.  Oh, but this is a wonderful place.  Ten minutes away are some of the most exquisite shops, including an excellent vintage shop, and an English second hand bookshop.  (Is it awful that my first thought on seeing that the owner was himself quite vintage was "Don't die, please don't die!"?  Also, he had a marvellous collection of books, but no Philip K Dick, whom I've decided I'd like to read.  One can hardly walk up to a strange man watching football on his laptop and ask if he has any Dick.) 

My walk home is all along the canal, flanked by ancient buildings.  I mean, bloody hell.  Tonight I was to have gone out but did not, so instead there was a night wander, gawping at the beauty of things like a despised and cursed tourist.  This city continues to unwrap itself before me in such loveliness that it's not quite believable.  On my little square is a massive reindeer made entirely of lights.  He is still lit while I wait in the dark morning for the tram.


Thursday, 13 December 2012

On Days Like These

I think it's safe to say today could have gone better.  It's like one crap thing comes along and it stops to pick up its mates on the way.

I overslept by two hours.  That isn't so much an oversleep, as an anaesthetic.  You know you are in really big trouble when the mournful clang of a tram wakes you and it's daylight outside.  So I got to work, very penitent, just after 11.  The day trundled towards its main event - a webinar I'd organised for people in several different countries.  Who logged on and just weren't showing up on the screen.  When you panic, all reason just goes.  Then the massive plant in the meeting room fell over, which was just about the bloody limit.

Within 20 minutes I'd sorted the webinar problem but it took a while for that giddy panic to stop yabbering so I could work out where it had all gone so horribly wrong.  We'd had a trial run last week, but I'd done something subtly different this time and completely FUCKED IT ALL UP.

And then I had to stand the plant up again and clear up the mess.  It falls over occasionally like a drunk.

Scarlett O'Hara said that thing about tomorrow being another day.  Whilst I think that is a tautology, she had a point.  Can we not have another day like this one though?  Thanks.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Signs of Life

It's small things that signify you live somewhere.  Not just your name on the doorbell.  Things like going to your local (I can see if out the window) frituur on the way home from work, buying the largest cone of friets and then cradling it home across the tramtracks like a baby.  Well I didn't want to lose any.  Just to show you what a serious matter chips are here, there a Belgian frituur index 

Other things that say this is home:  waiting for bloody bloody ages this morning for a train.  It took me two hours to get to work.  I could have been anywhere in Europe in two hours.  And that's a mighty cold station.  We Bruxellois workers stood together like meerkats for warmth, with that patience that comes of having no option.

Another thing:  going to the bar to meet new friends and giggling childishly and repeatedly when they order a Bolleke.  Yes, it is pronounced like that.  The waitress must be fairly used to it as she kindly informed me "it isn't bollocks".  Which unfortunately made me giggle more.

But the thing that means you have finally moved in properly - you miss a parcel delivery.  Going to the parcel collection place is definitely a sign of being here.  If people are sending you stuff you must be.  To see one's name scribbled on a Wij hebben een zending voor U! notice means you are real.   

And on this particular evening, rather full of real chips.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Unstuffed Capon

You'd think there would be a big old firework of joy and excitement, wouldn't you.  Actually I'm really tired, slightly numb, and slightly swearing at tourists who stand in my way.  I live in a beautiful, beautiful place.  It came home to me how fortunate I'd been to get this place (which I signed for just four weeks after the burglary) when I met someone who told me it took a year for them to find a place to live in Gent.  I think just everything has happened so much and so fast.  It's like a montage of highlights when someone gets kicked off a show.  So much in one year, and it's proper knocked the stuffing out of me. 

But I'm sure this will change.  I've already met some nice people and I think that socially it will be a much easier city.  Each time I pass Blokker I buy something - glasses, a saucepan, mugs.  Bag by bag I am gathering essentials.  In the new year I'll go for the big stuff, so that people can sit or sleep.

The commuting is bearable.  I've been trying to read Peter Ackroyd's "Clerkenwell Tales" but get no further than a page or two because I fall into that uncomfortable nodding-dog sleep. 

Once upon a time sleep cures were the fashion.  I'd quite like that now - to be put under for a month or so and wake up to find my apartment furnished, and a little sense of joy waiting, and some pals.  It will come, I'm sure.  This is the place. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Living the Dream

Yes, I'm here.  Or there.  It's difficult to know which now.  The move went relatively smoothly apart from some complaints about getting the mattress up the stairs (I did say...) and the €150 parking fine incurred by the Mans with Van.  In all my shuffling about north-west Europe, it's amazing how little has got broken.  One little table on the way from London and one piece of glassware coming here.  All my mirrors, pictures, and large collection of glass are intact.  Even the tiny Murano glass dish which has now got a job under the soap.  Everything is finally out, catching light and dust on my splendid window sills.

It feels a bit like I'm in a serviced apartment at the moment.  I've never lived anywhere this beautiful.  There is cream stone flooring throughout.  Those of you who know me a bit will guess that either I will become obsessed with keeping it perfect, or it will shortly be a repository mainly for spilled jam and tea.  After an afternoon of freezing strop on Saturday I finally worked out that the heating wasn't working because the boiler was off.  Yes, I know.  Internet was connected yesterday, and today was the first day of being a crazy commuter.

There are loads of us, and yet still we all get a seat, unlike the nose-to-armpit District Line back in London.  Coming home - meh.  I got soaked to my red leggings and then a tram in Gent met a car.  Long walk.  Wet, hungry, very cold.  Charlotte Bronte would have died of it.  If there was any night on which I was going to squander a luncheon voucher at the McDonalds in Korenmarkt, this was bloody it.  I shovelled in that slithery Big Mac and those fries, sitting in my wet coat and blue rainhat.  That hat does get about.

I could do with some furniture.  I've got a bed, a chair and the internet.  One up on Van Gogh I think.  When I was about twenty, I dreamed of having an apartment empty of pretty much everything except books.  I have an apartment empty of pretty much everything except books.  It only took thirty years.  Of course the dream is slightly more grown up now and I'd quite like something put them on.