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All Quiet On The Belgian Front

Posted on: Thursday, 30 May 2013

Except it’s not all quiet, is it? It’s bloody mental - hence the disappearing act. 

Firstly, WE NO SPEAK NO HALF-TERM. I know; an unthinkable outrage. School continues slouching towards the 28th June (yes I know, we break up in June, for two magnificent months; I need to put the ‘unthinkable outrage’ into perspective before some Gove-toady points it out). And despite missing out on my usual time-celebrated half-term traditions like, you know, watching an entire series of America’s Next Top Model in one go, I should probably acknowledge the fact that we have had forty-four billion bank holidays in May alone (hurray for Pentecost and all its friends). 

Plus things can’t be that bad because it’s May, and that means only one thing: the season of the street festival is upon us. I can barely step outside of the door without hearing the jolly rump-pump-rump of a marching band, and that kindles a certain pseudo-holiday-feeling in the soul. It was the birthday party of a local street (?) a couple of weekends ago and there was a veritable bonanza of food, drink and inflatable-related fun. There was even a medieval market at Montgomery. Apparently it’s an annual occurrence and a Bit of A Big Deal, so Bedders and I headed up there on a Friday evening to find a graveyard of sad Monk and Merry Maiden stallholders peering through the drizzle. The air was full of the smell of leather goods at highly-inflated prices and there were some quite, err, specialist stalls selling bows and arrows and mead. 

Anyway, back to contemporary Europe. So today Bedders was on his way to work - minding his own business, dragging his Ryanair-approved trolleybag - and, somewhere between Montgomery and Maelbeek, was relieved of his wallet. Several phonecalls and one frantic bank visit later and our joint Belgian account was three thousand euros lighter (thanks, guys). PLUS our HSBC account had been stripped of a grand (most of which belongs to HSBC, who didn’t seem to think it strange that we were out spending hundreds of pounds of an overdraft we don’t even have at quarter to nine on a wet Thursday morning). 

(NB If we sound we have enormous amounts of cash, we really don't. We're burrowing money away for a sickeningly enormous tax bill that'll land sometime in December) 

Parental Reaction:

My mum (she’s definitely what I’d call Crime Aware) is currently waiting for a lift to her knitting group somewhere in South Wales and muttering furiously about how she saw an episode of Crimewatch or somesuch recently that said thieves in London use flick knives to slash handbags and then buy FUR COATS and CROWNS with their ill-gotten gains. 

My dad rang me (he never rings me) and was rendered inarticulate with rage: “How in the name of Jaysus....the bastards.”

Quite a crime wave going on at the minute in Brux, it would seem. Some friends of mine from home were here for a mini stag do early this week and saw a literal and actual DIAMOND HEIST taking place. Well, they saw some plain-clothes police wrestling a bloke to the floor and extracting a gun from his back pocket, then blindfolding him in the Grand Place. Sheesh. 

But enough of this seedy underbelly of society stuff and onto more pleasant Brussels craic. Oh, I did the 20K! And didn’t die! Good, eh? I made it in a relatively comfortable 2 hours and 4 minutes and I’m now feeling all sorts of uncharacteristic and unwelcome pressure to go ‘sub-2 hours’ at the Great North Run (that’s a nauseating running phrase and I promise to never, ever use it again). And I saw Freddy Thielemans, Mayor of Brussels, at the starting line who waved us off and for one glorious moment I thought he was smoking a fag even though the whole event was heavily-sponsored by the European Commission and their ‘Ex-Smokers Are Unstoppable’ initiative that meant that there were sinister-looking black balloons everywhere (ugh, black balloons. Just ugh.) But alas no, it was merely the angle of his hand. So anyway, the race began, I successfully avoided the Brussels TV cameras (oo yeah, interview me, I look particularly beautiful today with my scraped-back hair and five hours sleep!), the open manhole (no joke) and the slippery cobbles. And afterwards I used a sweaty 10 euro note that Bedders had secreted in a pocket to satisfy a perverse post-run desire for a waffle and a Martini. Oh, it was a tremendous moment. 

So, what else has been happening? Well, a new tramp has started hanging out across the road from our apartment, and what a fine fellow he is. He has a paper cup and a brass neck and expertly weaves in and out of the cars while the traffic lights are turned to red gesturing mournfully at car windows. Then the lights flick back to green and he stands to one side, drinking a beer and occasionally pissing against a tree. 

So that’s been interesting. 

I’ve also been busy indulging my inner angst-ridden teen by reading age-inappropriate books. Despite that fact I’m hurtling at alarming speed towards a milestone birthday (clue: it starts with ‘thir’ and ends in ‘ty’), for some unfathomable reason I’ve been indulging in the latest Year 9 craze: namely, John Green. I read The Fault In Our Stars in two days on the tram and this was only because I just about managed to prise it out of the clammy hands of a thirteen-year-old girl who declared that it was THE MOST AMAZING BOOK OF ALL TIME OH MY GOD LAURA I JUST WANT TO MARRY AUGUSTUS WATERS HE IS LIKE A DREAMBOAT. Or something like that (as IF teenage girls today use the term ‘dreamboat’). Let it be known that my Year 9s are, quite literally, wetting themselves about it (ha, that’s an in-joke. The narrator of the book can’t abide it when people mis-use literality. I feel similarly). 

Seriously, though, it’s good. And miles better for a thirteen-year-old than the likes of Twilight and Bella Bloody Whatsherface who’s moody for no good reason (unlike, say, the good reason of Having Cancer) and just CAN’T UNDERSTAND WHY ALL THE WORLD FANCIES HER. The key to Hazel’s attractiveness is that she’s mad into Literature and she quotes T S Eliot at will. And the pair of them - Hazel and Augustus - are actually quite witty; although I should warn you, they do occasionally sip into Dawson's Creek philosophical-analytical territory. But back to the plusses: the title comes from an expertly-deployed Julius Caesar quote. Ultimate kudos. 

So I read it and my review to them was, ‘Well, I like it very much. But if I was thirteen I would freakin’ LOVE IT.’ Which went down rather well, I must admit. I declined to mention that if I was thirteen I would have been paralysed by awkwardness and been forced to smuggle it out of the school library because it has a cover that alludes to a romantic relationship. It reminds me of the time I went on holiday to Ireland with my parents and was reading an Irvine Welsh novel. 

Had to keep that bad boy on the Down Low.  

And finally, as I mentioned last time, I saw Gatsby. If anyone’s been waiting for a review of Luhrmann’s Ode to Excess, here’s my mother’s verdict which I received via stream-of-consciousness-style text messgae:

“Saw that Great Gatsby film it was a bit strange at the start but then it was quite good. X” (sic)

Get her Caitlin Moran’s job, people!

Read/seen/done owt good recently? 

Oh hai.

Posted on: Monday, 20 May 2013

Holy Mother of God, I redesigned the blog. 

What started as a little project - three? four? - weeks ago turned into a mammoth sweaty-palmed operation which eventually involved some head bashing against the computer, swearing and generally poor behaviour. It was a bit like the 'This shouldn't be so hard, I have a degreeeeee!' Indian visa application moment of late 2011. I am not proud. 

Credit where credit's due: Kirsty and her redesign are actual real-life inspirations not too dissimilar from the likes of ooh, Nelson Mandela or Roy Castle. I talk about her in hushed, reverent tones usually reserved by little Italian ladies for discussing Padre Pio. Even Bedders is familiar with the ins and outs of her reworking, poor sod. She also pointed me in the direction of Pugly Pixel and Blog Milk (gracias to both respectively), without which this little stationery junkie wouldn't have found lots of pretty backgrounds and textures and oh-my-God-the-photo-layouts. So merci buckets to Kirsty. Respect, innit. Your posts encouraged me to try to make sense of HTML and CSS; without them, I'd have inevitably had a big girly hissy fit. 

Please don't get me started, mind, on the bits that aren't quite right yet. Ugly 'follow me' twitter button, your days are numbered. 'About' page: you were there one minute and then disappeared the next, but you'll soon be back, don't you worry. At this current moment I would do (very) bad things for an on-hand ICT support team, so if you're that way inclined don't hesitate to contact me (at least when you click on my email to the right, there's a working link. I'll pay you handsomely in, err, biscuits or something.

So what have I actually been up to other than this little redesign adventure? Well, I've been playing around with my new 50mm camera lens. Oh, it's dreamy. And I've been writing; more on that soon. Oh, and I SAW GATSBY! I should really write a review. I'll write a review. Soon. 

Thank you for bearing with me. More LOLs, ROFLs and Shnarfs from Thundercats very soon.

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