Monday, 26 August 2013


It seems that a lot of life is spent keeping things at bay.  Like a pioneer sitting close to a fire which keeps predators in the shadows.   Or a breakdancer pushing everyone back to give herself some decent space.

Success for someone like this can be measured by how much is kept at bay – work filed neatly before deadlines, bills paid before they go big and red, various debilitating sicknesses staved off by  pills, bananas and apples, and household filth before it mutates and eats me.  The area (one area; there are others, too self-indulgently maudlin to go into) which I fail most in is fat.

 I am the exact weight that Kate Winslet (or Mrs Rocknroll to use her married name) was when, in her words, she was a whale.  Clearly she shed some whale fat before exposing her titties in various films because she looked very slim in those.  And when she breathed the immortal words in Titanic “Put your hands on me Jack”, Leonardo diCaprio did not say “Where’s your Jack?  I can’t find it under all this blubber”.

Like most plumpers, I have had periods of being thinner, but given that I have my grandmother’s body (not literally; that would be sick, and would take up storage space) I suspect fighting my genes might be an uphill struggle.  In the last year since I became office-bound, the fat which had been banished to various distant shadows has run back with immoderate glee and ambushed me.

Also at least one of my medications is a known fat-magnet.  I suppose we can’t keep everything at bay, all the time.  That will have to be ok, unless of course I get offered a major film role, or start breakdancing.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Dem Bones

Today was the Nose Doctor.  A charming, efficient and kindly man, he shoved an endoscope up my right nostril and then attempted my left.  You have a deviated septum, he said when I screamed.  I remember having an apple thrown at my nose when I was about nine, and suspect this broke it.  Before shoving said endoscope up my nose he said do not be afraid.  I told him I wasn't because I'd had one up my bottom.  You can say these things to doctors.  I didn't say I had one up my bottom during a raging hangover, because that would sound awful.

He then sent me off to Radiology for a CT scan.  It was all a bit Joe 90 with me laying in this thing and it spinning round my head.  Back upstairs with the results.  Nose Doctor and I regard my skull on the screen.  He shakes his head.  This should all be black.  Is it wrong that I was kind of enjoying all this?  At last, there's something visibly not right in my head!  It should be all black and my bones stared mournfully back from grey.  Blocked, infected sinuses.  Possibly polyps. (Hard to know because my head is full of infected snot).

So I have more medications to add to the chart.  I asked whether they would be ok with what I was taking.  Do not be afraid he said.  If the medications don't work, he's going in, apparently.  I suspect he'll straighten the septum on the way in or out, which will be nice.  I thought only Hollywood actresses had "deviated septums".  

Monday, 19 August 2013

Finding Billy

There are certain things that weave thematically through my life:  squawking green parakeets partying overhead; circus performers dancing into the road with clubs, balls or an enormous ring; my coughing so much and so long that if I were fictional I'd be dead; and IKEA.  Always IKEA. 

Not only are they always the same inside so whether you are in Milton Keynes or Ljubljana you can find your Billy bookcases, but also they all have similar unthought surroundings.  As if the designers forgot that people might come on foot.  Zaventem was the absolute worst, where I picked through hedges in the dark and walked up an industrial road with no footpaths.  Gent IKEA is not as hostile, yet still there is no pedestrian path, or signposting.  You just aim for the IKEA sign, through random car-parks and hedges until the building happens upon you.  It is, at least, nicer than Croydon.  Which is nicer than Zaventem.  Zaventem is possibly the 10th circle of Hell in Dante's Inferno.

I've been befriending the furniture I want.  I look at the corner of this room and have visions of a table.  Having a table seems currently to be the answer.  The things I would do if I had a table.  It represents order, civilised living, and somewhere to eat, somewhere to have people put their elbows.  At the moment there is just a ghost in the corner, projecting back from the future.  I might run to some chairs too, for comfort.

Bookcases too, are much needed.  It's interesting how easily you grow used to a pile of boxes in the corner.   They need to disgorge their showbiz biographies, and books about hangings, and about murder (and about hangings for murder).

Do we have parakeets in Gent?  I'm not entirely sure.   But then I'm near water rather than trees.  In the Parc du Bruxelles on Friday the parakeets screeched about twenty feet above me.  They always seem so wildly celebratory you cannot help but grin.  On the grass between the paths (this park makes me think of Brazilian waxes, with its neat strips of lawn), a circle of circus performers performed to each other.  Such big skills seemed strange in a small circle with only other performers for audience.  Almost like it was private, or a rehearsal, or a ritual, but done in plain view.  

Saturday, 17 August 2013

A First World Problem

Every place you live has a different rubbish system.  I can say that as a veteran now of three cities.  It always tends to bring out my anxiety in case I infringe some local bye-law.    In Brussels it was quite easy to annoy the bin men.  If you misused a recycling bag they would leave it there with a huge "STOP" sticker slapped on.  It might then stay there on the street for weeks because the offending user would not reclaim it.  In the first place I lived I picked them up and put them in general rubbish bags, just to get shot of them.

When I arrived in Gent I bought the wrong rubbish bags, but it was not at all clear where one bought the right rubbish bags.  They are hidden behind counters in most supermarkets and branches of Brico and you have to ask for them.  Quite why this is, I'm not sure.  They'd be quite hard to shoplift and they aren't intoxicating or dangerous as far as I know.  They are known here as Ivago sacks although in my head they are Iago sacks and therefore not to be trusted.

I discovered the collection calendar online and worked out that rubbish goes every week, glass once a month, plastics/cans and paper on alternating weeks.  And then my collection day goes and falls on Assumption day, which (I've done all the assumption jokes already) is a big bloody day off.  So my rubbish and plastic bottles were sitting out there like kids sent to the Headmaster for the last few days.  In London they would be collected the day after a public holiday.

I decided that under cover of darkness I would bring them back in rather than let them fester in public.  Also, the plastics were not due for another fortnight.  It was worrying and somewhat embarrassing, even though nobody could possibly know they were mine.  Then, further worry, somebody piled them with other rogue sacks across the road.  There was no way now I could identify my own rubbish without looking odd.

Anyway, Gent being such a schoon place, a rubbish lorry came round this evening and took them all.  I have a feeling those bottles won't be recycled.  And now I can stop angsting about my festering crap.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Fruit and Nut

When I was little, I used to have this picture on my wall of a mummy smilingly tucking in her little girl.  I used to make my mum imitate it, partly because the position of the hands was funny (she was pressing down on the bed with all her fingertips) but mainly because I wanted to be in that picture.  I don't know why suddenly I remember that.  Let's see if it becomes evident by the end of the post.

Being sick in our house was never a good way to get attention.  At best it drew impatience.  Sickness was a bloody nuisance.  Therefore, I developed a cast iron constitution and, on the rare occasions of sickness, withdrew like an animal.  There's nothing life-threatening in the sicknesses I have, but it's all life-unenhancing.  Until this year there had been little illness (apart from the migraine and depression but nobody's perfect).  I'm not going to list all my ailments.  They bore me, so for others they must be extremely dull.  Suffice to say it feels like I'm a listed building with bits falling off it.

There will soon be another venture into the Belgian health system, and hopefully they will work out why I haven't been able to smell anything for the last couple of months.  The only thing I really seem to be able to taste is raspberries.  And strawberries.  And apples.  Fruit, really.

I had these pure saline things which I bought off the internet, to wash out my sinuses, but was reluctant to try them because it might be like when you jump in chlorinated water without holding your nose. However, it was gorgeous.  The sensation of cool water going in and out of the chambers was delightful, and afterwards the whole front of my head felt clear.

Still don't know why I remembered that picture.   I think I have to be a loving mummy to myself, and become both people in the picture.  Not a bad thing to remember in general, I suppose.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Letting Him Entertain Us

If indeed I had a list, one thing was ticked off last night.  "See Robbie Williams Live" would not be on everyone's list, although, going by the numbers present, it was on a few (thousand).

Having been of scornful age when Take That were first around, my Robbie-love grew slowly and quietly.  I probably would never have got to see him but for a wonderful opportunity kindly offered by a new friend, P.  I bought her old iPod and the rest is history.

The Roi Baudoin stadium is on the site of the old Heysel/Heizel stadium and is the size of a village.  We found this out by having to walk around it to find the box office.  Staff were cheerful and helpful; signs non-existent. 

After a bit of Olly Murs (good on the boy, he done good, and various other footballisms), RW appeared as a tiny and sparkling action figure at the top of his stage set, about a hundred feet up.  He then zipwired down to the stage, landing far more elegantly than I ever have.  More of that inelegance later.  He said "I'm Robbie Fuckin' Williams and for the next two hours your arse is mine".  Leaving aside how he could possibly handle that many arses in two hours, it's a greeting I might try employing in future.

He really did give us two solid hours of Rob.   I won't go all fangirl on you but he was by turns arrogant, funny, brilliant, entertaining, funny, arrogant, and brilliant.  All the cheesy things about him  apply in wheel-of-brie-size amounts but it somehow works.  He can do it all - big stagy numbers like a beefed-up Artful Dodger, simple acoustic numbers that showed his rather lovely voice, and everything in between.  OK, at times he comes over a bit Saturday night variety, but I can ignore that.  He did a spontaneous Jimmy Savile impression which was immediately and amusingly regretted.  (When I say impression, he didn't fiddle with under-age girls, you understand.)

Anyway, to the end.  I've always hated "Angels".  It's one of those songs everyone knows the words to as if absorbed by osmosis.  When people do it on talent shows I go and make some tea.  It's trite, mawkish and dull.  Try singing it along with 42, 000 other people in the dark, with the scintillance of camera flashes and the tiny light windows of smartphones held above the heads of the standing crowd below.  I don't know about you but I've never sung a capella with 42, 000 people.  Words which had always seemed a bit rubbish felt like an anthem.  And I must admit that singing "I have been told that salvation lets their wings unfold" made a tear run out of my left eye.  This old cynic felt something magical happen.

Things not to try again:

1.  You may, at 51, be able to wriggle out of the barrier in front of you to get to the loo without a row of people getting up.  You may not be able to get back in that way without looking extremely daft.

2.  You may, at 51, be able to duck under car park barriers but please note, if you are wearing a back-pack which meets with the STOP sign on the barrier, you may end up sprawled on the floor. 

By the way, these newspaper reports about RW being a chubster these days - he's naturally quite a chunky bloke.  In another life he could probably have been a bouncer.  But you need to be quite fit to perform for two hours without a break, so up yours Daily Mail.