Sunday, 30 June 2013


I think I've written before about the concept of Cosmic Ordering: the idea that if you voice to the benignly indifferent universe what you really really really want, it will arrive as if ordered on the internet.

I don't fully believe that shouting what you want as if to a short-order cook in the kitchen works,  but I suppose that keeping the words in your mouth helps you to recognise the order if it might arrive, or helps you make steps toward it.  I admit that I have, on occasion, made demands to a sky full of uninterested clouds.  It is fortunate that when I used to walk in the Parc du Woluw√© with a sleeping child last year, it was mainly empty. 

It occurs to me that the universe, far from being benignly indifferent, is actually a bit of a piss-taker.  I have asked, in polite and respectful terms, for a nice boyfriend.  Someone kind, funny, loving, with nice teeth, and who will not bugger off immediately after.  Not a huge or unwieldy list of demands.  But somewhere between here and the kitchen, the order goes wrong.

At the risk of overloading you with metaphors, it is as if you go into a shop to buy a good winter coat and they say well all our good winter coats have been sold but would you like this one that belongs to someone else?  Or this one that will disappear the day after you wear it?  Or this one that you can try on, but you cannot take home?

Clearly it's not this simple. While I rarely doubted that I would find work here, because I knew my professional worth, that doesn't carry through to the more personal side of life.  To change what you personally think is your worth is almost as hard as changing your genetic code.  So I may be asking for something I feel I don't deserve, even though I know rationally that everyone deserves a good winter coat.


Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Circus Skills

So, you know these circus performers?  I've mentioned them before: they wait until the lights change at the junction of Arts and Belliard and then do a little show in front of the cars while the green man is lit.  What impresses me is that they are far from perfect and yet they present themselves with a flourish before a forced audience at a red light.  Today I did a very smooth side step to avoid being hit with an Indian club.   

In the park, where no doubt Charlotte Bronte used to cruise, looking for Mr Rochester types, a lone young man on the bandstand played what looked like a bodhran.  I could neither tell if it was or if it was played well.  Often rope walkers practise, their slack ropes slung from tree to tree.  I like this public display of unfinishedness, with its intent to show learning in action and at the same time to show off a little.

It is something to learn from.  One doesn't have to be perfect.  There is a story that the word "sin" derives from an old archery term meaning to "miss one's mark".  Few people aim to fail, and I expect every archer aims to hit the bull.  Missing the mark therefore just means one should try again, and keep trying.  The sin of missing your mark is not an offence to whatever god you hold dear.  And it is not an offence to yourself.  I have a feeling I may be rambling, but what I'm aiming for (oh see what I did?) is this:

Like a lot of people, I punish myself harshly for getting things wrong, or not getting things right, and fail to see often that just practising your archery in full view of the world is fine.  We are all sinners...  :o) 

Monday, 24 June 2013

Fat Chance

Surprising amount of work to do after a conference. 

The website was playing silly buggers with me this morning but I kicked it a bit and it's fine now.  Among things that will not be finding their way onto the website are some candid shots of me looking a right fat fucker.  One of the disadvantages of not pushing children around all day is that I've put on the weight lost when pushing children around all day.  Fat-fuckerdom is no fun, although you do get to eat a fair bit. 

Despite a reputation that stretches as far as Paris, I drink only occasionally now.  Due to my being a walking pharmacy and the fact that a couple of glasses of wine can give me a migraine, it's not always worth it.  A pack of twelve Sumatriptan costs as much as four bottles of cheap wine.  You don't need to do the math(s). 

What with the lungs being pretty much sub-standard for the last half-year (turns out there was a lurking chest infection on top of asthma), exercise has been - well - not even really on the list.  The list has had one thing on it - namely to start feeling better. 

But in the meantime I've become a blubber magnet.  This does lousy and confusing things to your self-image.  I have two arguments going on in my head and neither of them are very sensible.

Argument 1:  that the extra fat (it's not the biggest ever I have been, but it just feels it having downsized last year) should not matter and that men should be attracted anyway, dazzled by my enormous personality.  Yeah, that's just rubbish.  If I were offered, as a sort of taste test, two chaps and one was nicely muscled and one had spent the last three years eating cake and crisps, to the detriment of his musculature, I need not tell you which I'd prefer.  (Also, I wouldn't want somebody who would eat my crisps).

Argument 2: that seeing as I'm a bit porky anyway, I might as well go on one of those websites where chaps actively seek out the Larger Lady.  That always has to be capitalised, by the way.  But then I think fuck it, why would I want to go out with someone who likes me just because I am a Larger Lady?  (On the plus side, he would feed me crisps).  I fear I may actually be a bit too skinny for some of those fat-fanciers anyway.

So those two argue round my head while I try not to look at my reflection.  The logic there is that if I can't see what I look like, I'm invisible.  In my head I'm about 5ft 10 and leggy.  The reflection keeps getting it wrong.

I've started taking a pile of fruit to work each day.  It's going to take a long time to get there, but at least I can breathe now, which is always a good thing. 

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Where Everybody Knows Your Name...

When you are organising a conference the best part of 3000 kilometres away, it doesn't seem real.  It's just a lot of vaguely unanswered emails, the odd shouty enunciated phone call as if we were both on the deck of different ships, and some forehead/keyboard interfacing.

And then you get there and it's all absolutely bloody real and happening.  You go from quiet admin type person to the one everyone wants to talk to right now.  You become the holder of USB sticks, and the conjuror of presentations from a Turkish laptop.  That's something I hadn't anticipated.  I now know certain Turkish words that I'll never again need.

There were always going to be things I hadn't anticipated.  On the Tuesday night while I sat with the Board, dining at a lone table in a vast room, the delegates had been taken by our hosts to a restaurant in Taksim Square.  Clearly this wasn't a terribly good idea and due to water cannon and retreating gas-masked protestors, it was not actually possible to get near the restaurant.  They were deposited back at the hotel and suddenly we noticed delegates drifting in and out of our banqueting hall like lost bees.  Tables were hastily set up and a meal for around 30 people produced from somewhere.  I think it was what is known in the trade as a near fuck-up.

The conference itself went off really bloody well.  I congratulate myself heartily.  However prepared you are, there will always be at least ten people who change their presentation at the last minute or who bowl up with requests that it might have been prudent to warn me about, especially given the utterly rubbish internet connection.  Although we were in a luxury hotel, the luxury hotel was in the arse-end of nowhere.  I am not exaggerating when I say there was a shanty town down the road.

On the Thursday we were looking forward to Turkish Night.  Our President had requested that I sort out a microphone for him as he wished to address the troops during the evening.  Sometime during the Turkish buffet and before the Whirling Dervishes, the President got up to thank our hosts.  The next bit should really only have happened in a poorly-scripted film starring Julia Roberts.  He thanked me and said I'd been a generally excellent egg and all that, and then called me up.  Unprepared, I took my napkin, and wrung it slightly, going pink.  I'm used to large audiences but I'd been noshing on dolma and wasn't expecting this.  He made the entire room - some 50 doctors, professors, and other senior associates - stand up and shout WE LOVE JANE.  Three times, because the first two times weren't loud enough.   I then squirmed back to my seat and took a big drink of booze. 

As the conference trickled to an end Friday lunchtime, I escaped to the landscaped lake garden behind the hotel, where nobody could find me.  Four days of constant requests had made me crave absolute silence.  I sat on a hot pontoon jutting out at right angles in the lake.  The wind was warm and brisk; and lightning fell from a sweaty sky.  The lake was pretty choppy and splashy. 

Back to Istanbul for the final night: a trip on the Bosphorus Strait.  Perhaps it was the out-of-school feeling of the conference being finished but I was wildly excited about this and spent a fair bit of time with my head over the side like a dog out of a car window.  I can't really condense it all into words, so I'll leave you with the final image:  around 11pm as we returned across the middle of the huge black strait, the fairy-lit banks far away, I heard the dimly amplified calls of several muezzins from both sides of the water as my colleagues and associates danced to Turkish pop on the deck.  Their callings to prayer were far away but twisted all together in the darkness.  I stood as far forward on the ship as possible, unable to stop smiling at everything.



Monday, 3 June 2013

Turkey Trot

One might be tempted to think that I had started civil unrest in Turkey, just to get out of going there.  Fantastic as my organisational skills are, they don't quite run to that.  And so, following a conversation with one of our people there (who was actually in the park) and whilst keeping a cautious watch on the FCO website for possible advice not to travel, we are still going.

It feels at the moment as if I am setting up an arrangement of dominos in a Fibonacci spiral and at some point will gently flick the first one and watch them all fall neatly where I wish.  Either that or it will be a complete eff up of the highest order.  Barring natural disasters, terrorist attacks and very uncivil civil unrest, things should go off vaguely as planned.

I look forward most of all to the final night, which is a little voyage on the Bosphorus, where my newly Ebayed frock will flutter in the breeze and I will think "Thank fuck for that" and mount the bow of the boat like Kate Winslet.