a bit of wotnot from a British person in mainland Europe

Monday, January 09, 2006

On your knees, Europrat

Picture the scene:

A bin bag. Containing, among other things, half a kilo of quinoa ("keenwah", apparently), which I am throwing away because although it has the texture and granularity of boulgar wheat (hideous substance), it is nowhere near as appealing. Unsurprising really; it's one of those 'miracle foods' that people like Carol Vorderman tell you that you ought to eat, so it was always going to have the taste of cardboard. I bought it around the same time as the seeds and coffee grinder, with which I was going to garnish my morning Weetabix, thus embellishing my diet to new heights of optimum nutritional standards.

Suffice to say, all of the above faddy rubbish came with me to Brusssels, wasn't touched once, and I'm certainly not going to allow it to take up valuable car space on the way back 18 months later.

Anyway where was I? Oh yes. The bin bag.

Split, outside the door to my flat.

On the third floor.

Cue half an hour spent vacuuming small bits of white off the carpet of (count 'em) sixty stairs, while neighbours look on in amusement: "ah, c'est noël!".

Now, back to the oven.



Sunday, January 08, 2006

No more cleaning

My hands are chapped and sore.

My wrists and arms ache from scrubbing.

But still, still the flat is not yet clean enough to leave. I still have to do many things before I will be allowed to leave. They are evil, the landlords. Evil.

For now I will sleep. But have chocolate first.



So as everyone knows, upon leaving rented accommodation, if you want your deposit back, it's a good idea to give the place a thorough clean.

Of course, with M being back in London, this pleasant task falls to me, toute seule.

(I can't complain; he has found us a flat there and by the time I arrive on Saturday will have enlisted four of his friends to move all our wotnot out of storage and into the new place. The least I can do is a bit of cleaning.)

Now, I don't mind a bit of cleaning, when I'm in the mood. I can quite happily devote inordinate amounts of time to, say, dusting the surfaces, or getting out a really stubborn spot on the fridge door. However, the key clause in my first sentence is 'when I'm in the mood'. That mood has often tended to coincide with, say, the run up to an important exam or essay deadline (while at university), or, over the last few months, the times when I should have been writing job applications.

Of course now, the cleaning itself is taking on the stature of an essay deadline, looming as it has been in my personal calendar. I have already put it off once; I was going to do it yesterday but of course the shops were open and the sales were on - an event not quite the same as in the UK, where sales seem to happen every month; in Belgium, they are strictly in January and July only - and I thought it made more sense to shop on Saturday, clean on Sunday. After all, what else is there to do on a Sunday?

So, today is the day. Of course, given that I'm typing this, I'm obviously not doing the cleaning. It appears that with the cleaning itself becoming an essay deadline-type-event, writing posts here would seem to have become the new displacement activity. Rather like the new black.

Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh on myself. I have made a start: last night I took all the oven racks and soaked them in the bath, as per the piece of advice from 'Bernadette' on this page here. They mostly came out very well, and are certainly a new shiny colour, the likes of which haven't really been seen since we moved in. However, the oven itself is proving rather more tricky. I have now made three attempts at cleaning it, using pretty much all the suggestions on this page, except for the ammonia one which scared me a bit, because how does it work? Why does putting a bowl of ammonia in your oven overnight mean the dirt just wipes off come morning? It's freaky chemistry and I don't like it. However, given that smearing pastes of combinations of baking soda, white vinegar, lemon juice and washing up liquid doesn't appear to be working, and that the glass door still has brown flecks of burnt on grease attached to it, I may have to try it.

I also have to, at some point today, remove the gross looking stain from the sofa which is a result of getting rid of a red wine stain; the red wine disappeared but the act of getting rid of it spread the ingrained dirt out into a patch that looks remarkably like someone has had a pee on it.


Wish me luck.


PS From my window, it looks like the Council of Ministers building is either (a) on fire or (b) burning funeral pyres. Obviously there is no other possible explanation; it has to be one of those two things.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Merry 06

I have made some resolutions. I'll tell you about them, right here.

They are:

1. Take all that hard work in Ki-Box classes (basically, aerobics with boxing gloves on) and actually turn it into an ability to do sport: namely, join a kickboxing class upon return to London and become really, really excellent at it, resulting in new fit, lithe and marvellous looking self in time for the summer. *ahem*

2. Cook more. Even if it means forcibly restraining M and not letting him in the kitchen (which will be difficult in our new flat, which has an open-plan kitchen-living-area). Do not let lack of imagination become a prohibitive barrier: recipe books are there to help.

3. Do a good job at new job. Do not procrastinate and read blogs all day.

4. Write own bloody blog a bit more often.

That's all. I'll stop the weird pseudo-Bridget Jones voice now.

So what can I tell you?

It is bitterly, bitterly cold at the moment and for the last two evenings I've got home from work feeling faint and light-headed. I have no idea if this has anything to do with the cold (I imagine it's more to do with the speed at which I walk and late afternoon low blood sugar levels, the combination of which requires me to eat a big Eat Natural bar as soon as I get in, accompanied by a glass of orange juice) but it has prevented me from finding the will to go out again to a fitness class. This is poor form, I know, especially in light of Resolution No. 1, but I really can't face it. Perhaps tomorrow. Is that so wrong? And if I spend the time at home being productive and doing sorting out-type things in preparation for moving back to London, does that make it better? I think it must do, really. Surely?

It is quite odd being here at the moment. As we're off back to London, all of our stuff is in storage there, and indeed M himself is now there on a permanent basis; I will join him late next week when we move into our new flat. But for the time being there's an odd sense of pause. I'm living in a flat devoid of any entertainment possibilities save for the computer and one book (the book is Wild Swans though so it's not all bad), by myself, with nothing to do but go to work, and come home again, with some occasional packing/tidying/washing/exercise-avoiding to do.

What I should really do is make the most of this time to do improving things, precisely like exercise, or at the very least meeting up with friends for goodbye dinners and drinks. But all I feel like doing is staying in and battening down the hatches.

Oh. Oh yes. I remember. It's January. We've covered this before.


Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Site statistics

I tell you what, site statistics are great.

For instance, I can tell you that over the last two months of pretty stony cold silence from me, most visitors to this blog have got here because they searched for "the difference between a hurricane and a tornado", which took them to this page. I hope I was of service.

Also though, there are the regular visitors. (Not many of you, but you do exist, to my continued amazement.) You have admittedly dwindled over the long 60 days of silence, but I'm hoping that some will be excited at the following news:

We're moving home!

Watch out London...

... for, er, a pair of middle class idiots dressed in Euroblazers and brogues, grumbling about the cost of living compared to Belgium.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Birthday cake

I was looking at cake in the patisserie this morning when the following thought sequence went through my mind:

Ooh look. Cake... haven't had cake for a while. Mmm. Lemony one looks nice. Probably last time I had one was for someone's birthday in the office.




*low groan*

You may remember that I work in an office of just five employees. It is an office where a bizarre level of emphasis is placed on people's birthdays; we are routinely subjected to a *surprise* afternoon break, consisting of half an hour's banal conversation around the meeting table, some gooey chocolate cake, a mug of lukewarm coffee and a gift voucher for €50.

Of the four employees who are not me, two are nice, and two are batty. Last week, by some quirk of office diaries, I and one of the nice ones were left alone for four whole days. It was bliss. On Wednesday, he brought in some pastries for breakfast.

"Oooh thanks!" I said, "that's excellent coz I didn't have any breakfast this morning. You must be psychic!"

It was, of course, his birthday.

Now, admittedly, I have been a bit crap here. It wasn't that it wasn't there for all to see on the office calendar. It wasn't that I haven't been going on about it for about a month, because (can I admit this?) we actually forgot it last year too.

But, in my defence, is it not a little weird that he didn't mention anything? I mean, he's a lovely guy, and I do feel terrible, but when it's my birthday, I forewarn people. For their own good and mine - I don't want them to forget, and I don't want them to forget and then remember and know that I knew they forgot. It's not a test, after all. I know that my colleagues can't really be arsed with my birthday. But I also know they'd feel a bit rubbish if they forgot it, and, to be honest, so would I, a bit. So I do the decent thing and drop heavy hints for about four weeks beforehand, to save us all the embarrassment of them forgetting.

I suppose what I'm really saying is that he brought this whole thing on himself by being so secretive. He should bake me cake, to make up for putting me in such an awkward position. Selfish git.


Thursday, September 22, 2005

Fat lady

No, I don't mean me.

Almost every day, as I walk to work past this graffitti, I also walk past a really very plump lady, on a moped.

She's there almost every day, and she always looks a little sad. Today she was not sitting on her little yellow moped as usual, but leaning against a wall, still with her helmet on, still looking sad.

What does she do there? Why at 9.15am every day?

Answers on a postcard. Or in the comments box, if you like.


Saturday, September 17, 2005


Oh heavens.

I have that feeling of doom that comes after a night of too many white wines, not enough food and far too much conversation, during the course of which I may or may not have said embarrassing and personally revealing things.

Oh dear.

I keep having those moments where things that I did/said come back to me and, even though I am on my own today, make me cringe and let out a low, but audible, groan. For instance, I have a dim recollection of letting out a hiccup (if I'm honest, it may have been a burp) as I bought water on the way home, and giggling at the shopkeeper like a mad lady.

I must go. There are activities I must undertake that will distract me from this feeling of having acted like an utter muppet.