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For several months now, the battle of the brush has been raging in our Belgian household. Perhaps it’s my Virgo sensibilities which are not jiving with adolescent male standards for toilet hygiene, or perhaps it’s because I expect cleanliness before godliness. God knows I expect the loo to be flushed! 

Whatever the reason, every second week that we have the kids I find myself waging a campaign of Napoleonic proportions with regard to the downstairs toilet.  One revelation of moving countries and sharing a house with The Belgian and his boys is that I am able to set my watch by their bowel movements. Regular as clockwork. Yeah, I know…possibly a bit too much information!  

Nonetheless, I make this claim as it means I can also predict what will happen should I need to avail myself of the facilities.  Picture this scenario...desperate for a pee, I head to the nearest loo, only to find it resembling a Calcutta hell-hole. Cue a loud shriek from me and lengthy discussions with my husband, who shares my views on clean loos, but seems less bothered by this than I am.  I am extremely bothered by this…

Clearly the second revelation of living in a male-dominated household is that the sexes have opposing views on what is acceptable in terms of keeping things spic and span in the smallest room in the house…

We tried a cordon sanitaire, complete with photographic evidence. No discernible effect!  We tried logic and an appeal to their better selves. No discernible effect!  Were they doing this deliberately?  Was I being unreasonable? I didn’t think so. However, in the absence of an outside portaloo and a mandatory bidet regimen, I was ready to pack my things and move back to a place where the throne room really sparkles…

It all came to a head this week. Yes, I’d really had enough of other peoples crap! Sensing my distress, The Belgian, who is ever resourceful, has now come up with an incentive plan to ensure that brushing happens after flushing. No skid-marks means a bonus on pocket money, but only if both toilets are spanking clean. Where there’s no muck, there is definitely brass. Meanwhile, I have drafted in reinforcements with industrial amounts of toilet cleaner. And if that fails…well, I can always use the boys’ toothbrushes to polish the bowl!

The Year of the Cat…

Image: Copyright Chiromancer

The cat – as with so many things this year – arrived in an unexpected way. The Belgian and I were enjoying a late-evening aperitif and some ‘hapjes’ (a.k.a. bar snacks) – when a skinny creature made it’s approach, miaowing plaintively.

Since we were living in two places and I was working in a third, pets were not on the agenda.  We had only just had a funeral for the gerbil so I really didn’t need another crash course in  pet care for step-parents!  

 ‘Do not feed the cat!’ I was instructed. Which of course, I was compelled to ignore. Surely a small and surreptitious snack would not do any harm? ‘He won’t leave’ The Belgian muttered. And he was right…the next night the cat arrived for another late night bite.  Clearly the cat was domesticated, so he must be someone’s pet. ‘If he is here again, I’m going to take him to the animal shelter’ said my husband, darkly.

Instead, he took the cat to the vet, got him micro-chipped, vaccinated and issued with a pet passport so he could travel.  The Belgian is nothing if not kind-hearted, and that is why I married him!  We named the cat Watson. He purrs louder than a tractor, and since his batteries must have been removed in one of his previous 9 lives, sleeps 18 hours per day. He is of course, totally perfect for us.

Sometimes in life, you get what you need, but it’s not necessarily what you thought you wanted.  Thanks Watson, for being one of the good things in 2016.

Strong opinions, weakly held…

Modern life is rubbish, but modern romance is even rubbisher.  I’m writing this post in despair at the parlous state of the British male of the species. Now before all my male friends get shirty, this particular post does not refer to you.  But, I should say that names have been changed to protect the guilty, and Mr Unique is so definitely not.  Girls, you get the picture…

 So, me…sensible woman, not unintelligent, no scales and only one head.  Him, ok bloke – nice looking, own hair and teeth (always a plus) seems reasonable. So far, so good.   Everything was going swimmingly until he said: ‘I have strong opinions, weakly held’…Now I don’t know if it was the fact that he turned out to be a fence-sitter (that’s usually not a comfortable place to be) or the fact that he sent me an email with a You Tube version of Danny Boy, sung by Muppets – no really, Muppets…Either he was implying that secretly he was a felt puppet with bad hair or that is what passes for sense of humour these days.  So, that was the kiss of death as far as I was concerned.  See my previous post, ‘Things that make you go ha!’ to understand why a shared sense of humour is crucial.

But it got me thinking.  What is the point of having a strong opinion if its only weakly held. That just seems like a cop-out. Strong opinions, strongly held are what led to the abolition of slavery, enshrined voting rights for the suffragettes, got the first man to walk on the moon. On balance, I’d prefer a strongly minded man than one who seems a bit soft in the head.

Things that make you go ha…

It’s dinner time, and I have just finished listening to Laura Solon, a really funny comedienne on R4. After today’s episode,  I am sure my neighbours think I am a lunatic…if they don’t, they probably will after all the maniacal laughter that’s been emanating from my kitchen. Of course, I do realise that my sense of humour is what helps me laugh at what it prevents me from having. You know…a normal life…2.4 kids, pets, a husband and a station wagon. Ha, ha, ha…

Laughter is good for the soul but not everyone finds the same things funny.  Personally, I cannot stand Ben Stiller films (though Zoolander might be a notable exception) and modern Hollywood comedy leaves me cold. Please bin those rubbish films like ‘Knocked up’ and ’40 year old virgin’.  Utter dumbassery (as a good friend of mine would say)! I also must be the only person in England who hated (and I say this unreservedly) – H.A.T.E.D.- ‘Four Weddings and a funeral’ – not funny, just stupid and stereotypical!  Cheese-fest, deluxe.  Give me a Chuck Norris film any day!

As you’ve probably sussed by now, my particular laughing gas is wit. So, what makes me smile:

1. Well-honed political satire, word-play and intelligent slapstick! Dry humour a la Paul Merton or Jack Dee, or really interesting stuff  like Monty Python.Having said that, I’ve never really got Reeves and Mortimer.  And I must draw the line at League of Gentlemen – that just brings disturbing to a whole new level. 

2. Rude-ish limericks! an old English tradition. One of my great loves captured my heart when he told me a very rude – but very erudite – joke – I’ve never forgotten it, and it still makes me chuckle even after 20 years!

3. Silly things.  I know, I know…I’ve been deriding ‘stupidity’ but the Cravendale advert on TV (the one with the lucky packet cows and plastic model footballers) is sheer genius. Milk! Milk!  Watch the ads if you want to understand the punchline. Same goes for Laurel and Hardy.

4. I laugh when really arrogant people fall off their perches in a big way. Simon Cowell, I am still waiting, but my friend Nubian is probably going to slap you with her Louboutin’s one day soon, so you have been warned! And yes, Gordo, I will laugh when you lose the next election and get tried for war crimes along with your pal Tone.

By this point, my dark soul is probably emerging – roused by the laughter, no doubt.  So its time to sign off, but I’m curious.  What makes you chuckle, laugh, roar…answers on a comment pls.

A god (dess) of small things…

Over 200 years ago, Blake, in his Auguries of Innocence, wrote ‘To see a World in a Grain on Sand, And a Heaven in a Wild Flower, Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand, and Eternity in an hour’. I think what he meant was that the secret of happiness does not reside in grand sweeping moments, but rather is to be found in those small, still moments of intimacy that modern life does its best to stop us from noticing.

I’ve moved down to the coast, and I’m fortunate enough to be in an area where there are both brutal landscapes (industrially attractive shingle beaches, rough-hewn piers) and wild spaces (cement sea, greenery and white cliffs).  I grew up in the Cape which probably has some of the best beaches in the world, but somehow my rough little patch of SE England has beauty all of its own.    It’s an under-rated place – like the shy girl in high school who looked a bit nerdy and then turned out to be a beautiful swan, or the woman whose sense of humour helps her to laugh at what it prevents her from having.  It needs time – and courage – to be appreciated.  It also needs patience – noticing that rare seaside plant or beautiful butterfly when walking on the Leas, seeing the possibility in newly harvested fields with rough, stubbly remnants of crops, and hearing the seagulls and guillemots and ring-necked doves greet the morning… along with the high speed train and the ambulance rushing to the local hospital!

Despite being a non-believer, I know that I believe in the god (or goddess) of small things.  In life, as in business, its the small things that really matter.  A warm smile, a lovely day, a beautiful autumn scene – that man on the tube who gave me his seat, my coffee shop guy in the station who greets me like a long lost friend, even though he does not know me,  the local shopowner who was kind and comforted a distressed nine-year old by calling her mother, the optician who gave me a discount and a free eye test just because he could. Small, but important things.

Having moved from a massive city to what I would term the coastal boondocks, it’s been an adjustment, but its also been a pleasure.  Don’t get me wrong – in my small pocket of London where I used to live, my neighbours were fantastic.  I miss them.   But I also know that the people in my pier-side town have restored my faith in the little things.