I have absolutely nothing intelligent to say today, but I have managed to dress to the prompt. So there’s that.
Week-end: the higher the brow the harder they fall
The Kickstarter for Bicycles and Broomsticks is live and is nearly half-way funded only a few days in. I have written a story! My story will be published! People will read my story! In a year when I have more writing-imposter syndrome than usual, this is a good feeling.
We had a lovely time in Belgium, with a further two and a half days in Brugge, an hour people-watching in Brussels, and the comparative glamour of Standard Premier class on the Eurostar home.
Today, by contrast (but equally good), I’ve cycled ten minutes up the hill and slightly less down again (eating croissants and discussing questions of theology in the middle), and walked 5km in one hour, and watched Filippo Ganna cycling 57km in one hour, and pottered in the garden, and generally had a nice quiet day.
Home trains. We got off the Eurostar to find that nothing was running to Ely, so we got on a slow train to Cambridge, then discovered that the next train to Ely was in fact running. And on Tuesday I miscalculated my tickets and had to buy a single to go with my super off-peak which I’d left it too late to use. Plus the fact that as things turned out I didn’t really need to go to London on Tuesday after all, except by the time I knew that I’d booked tickets to something I actually did rather want to go and see, so…
But! The Ely-King’s Lynn line is finally fixed, and the timetable restored, so I can get a train straight through to work in the morning, and I have two through trains per hour in the evening. Which is all marvellous.
The difficult and perplexing
My RSS reader came up with an error for Cate’s Cates this week. Catherine was a joyous, kind, witty, and eclectic internet presence; she died very unexpectedly earlier this year; and now a little more of what was left is gone.
Being eaten alive by mosquitoes in our room at Brugge. The bites are fading now, but at one point I had three on my right cheekbone. Fortunately the place also had a very flattering mirror and I could pretend it was a tripartite beauty spot, a mark of distinction, rather than untimely acne. The ones on my arms and feet were really itchy, though.
And I continue to be a zombie outside daylight hours.
Well, not doing things outside daylight hours, but that gets increasingly difficult. I’m not even doing terribly well during the daylight hours, though Radio 3 is helping.
Promising myself I’d do an hour of admin and then stop (and setting a Forest Focus tree to enforce both).
Snag tights (the only snag, ha, is that all my other tights are infuriatingly ill-fitting by comparison). I was particularly pleased by the white-fishnets-over-black-opaques combination.
Very intellectual this week. I had put The Master and Margarita on my e-reader some time ago, and began that on the Eurostar home; I’m about a quarter of the page count and two decapitations in. Then I finished Art and Lies yesterday. Very good, impressionistic, visual, disquieting. (Note: all the content notes.) I couldn’t quite face going back to The Master and Margarita and more potential decapitations, so I started Sisters of the Vast Black (Lina Rather) which is delightful so far. (Nuns! IN SPAAACE!) Last night I was feeling too exhausted for anything new at all, so put on my pyjamas and lounged on the sofa with The Fellowship of the Ring (and the cat on my lap). I’m pretty sure I fell asleep like that.
I got five badges (see Acquisitions, below) onto my camp blanket despite the best efforts of the cat.
Today, Filippo Ganna’s Hour Record, the end of the Lombardia, and highlights from the Singapore Grand Prix. At other points in the week, the keyboard finals of the BBC Young Musician of the Year, Star Trek: Lower Decks, and quite a lot of quiz shows from BBC iPlayer.
Art in the Groeningen Museum in Brugge. I will never now be able to unsee The Judgement of Cambyses. There was some Bosch in there too, about which all I can say is ‘it was smaller than I expected’. But there were also things that I remember and enjoyed looking at: St Luke Drawing The Virgin Mary, for example, where the poor Madonna is trying to feed the baby Jesus, who is distracted by St Luke in the way that babies are. And a couple of really striking late nineteenth-century landscapes.
Then on Tuesday I went to see the Fashioning Masculinities exhibition at the V and A. A few of my friends had been to this and enthused. And it’s closing soon, and I can’t get to the V and A and back in a lunchtime (I’ve tried), so I thought that since I had to go to London to pick up my laptop, I might as well make an afternoon of it. And a fascinating afternoon it was. Although in some ways it was just as interesting looking at the other exhibition-goers; some of them were dressed very strikingly indeed.
Caldo verde, sort of, and an attempted Black Forest sponge pudding from the remains of a chocolate tray bake and the end of a jar of cherry jam. I think I might have done better to bash the cake up more and mix in a little milk. But it was perfectly edible.
The most delectable waffle I have ever tasted. It was most beautifully light and it came with cream, ice cream, and kirsch-soaked cherries. I ordered a pot of coffee alongside it and that came with a macaron and a hard almond biscuit. This was at a café in Brugge called Carpe Diem.
We also ate some mussels and shrimp croquettes, and I had a thing called Croque Boum Boum for lunch on our last day (it’s a toasted cheese and ham sandwich with bolognese sauce on the top), but it’s that waffle that I’ll remember.
Beer. I am a bit thrown by the way Belgian menus don’t tend to include the alcohol percentage, and tended to stick with known quantities for that reason. I did, however, risk a Tripel Karmeliet knowing that it was going to be pretty deadly.
And a lot of coffee.
I climbed the belfry at Brugge. Over three hundred steps. On the whole I prefer the one at Ghent, which has dragons, but I’m glad to have done it. I ended up at the top when the carillon was going for the hour, which was quite a thing. Couldn’t help but think of The Nine Tailors…
Golden sunlight and long shadows, and the sharpness of the demarcation. A tiny two-spotted ladybird landing on my hand. The stars, when I went out to pick some rosemary last night.
In the garden
Apples, loads of them. Pears, quite a few of them. Today I pruned one of the apple trees and cut a load of wisteria and the vine back.
The fluffiness of the cat. The honesty and curiosity of the Way of Breakfast group. A weekend in which I don’t have to do anything much.
I was very pleased to find cloth badges for Oostende, Wenduine, De Haan, and Littoral Belge at a flea market stall in Brugge. Then, in a souvenir shop, I found a Brugge badge that I preferred to the one that I’d already got, so I bought that one. Anybody want a Brugge badge?
Picked up Susan Sontag’s Notes On Camp from the V and A.
More Snag tights. And I am still thinking about jeans. (Both my pairs of jeggings have worn through, too.)
Line of the week
I said last week that it ought to be Art and Lies. This week it is, although it was hard to find a single best line; so much of it is short, bright, fragments that don’t look like so much on their own, but cumulatively are utterly dazzling. However:
The crescent curve of the train mows the houses as it passes, the houses disappear behind the moon metal blade of the silver train.
This coming week
I have finally got all the ducks lined up in a row for a work project that’s needed doing for a long time. On Monday I’m beginning another writing stint. Saturday we’re going to see friends. I want to have the energy to enjoy all those things in their different ways.
Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!
Personal Ad for a Handbag
(Or two handbags. One in black; one in brown or blue. You could be the same design in different colours, or you could be different designs, both of which match my specifications.)
You have a decent square or oblong base, and you are sufficiently bottom-heavy that you don’t tip over when I put you down.
You will fit into my bicycle basket without having to be put on end or tilted.
You have two handles, long enough for you to be carried comfortably over my shoulder, but not so long that you drag on the ground when I carry you in the hand.
You can be closed completely, but you are deep enough that stuff doesn’t fall out of you if you aren’t.
You can carry a large paperback book and my Filofax simultaneously, or a pair of size seven ballerina flats. You have a pocket for my purse, phone and keys, and another one for my work pass and travelcard.
You don’t have tassels. You don’t have writing on. You don’t have an ostentatious logo.
Any metal trim is silver coloured, not gilt, and there isn’t much of it.
I buy you in a shop. I don’t buy you online, and nobody else buys you for me.
You are made of leather. I want you to last.
April Moon day 8: a small strip of luxury
I wouldn’t call it a collection as such, but I do seem to have a lot of scarves.
I have so many scarves that the other day when I was trying to put one back on the hanger (it’s a device in the shape of a pair of wings, with many holes through which one can stuff the scarves) I pushed a little too hard and the thing snapped in two.
I love scarves. Instant costume. I have one or two faithful favourites that I wear most of the time, some that go with particular garments or outfits, and a few that I almost never wear but which are utterly lovely.
The current faithful is a miracle that I got for a quid in a charity shop. It’s a patchwork of velvet and silk in deep jewel colours – red and orange and olive green and magenta and purple and blue – and goes with everything I own, or at least with everything I’m likely to wear in the winter. Sometimes I wear it with a very short black dress and tuck the ends into a bright pink belt; then I feel like something by Diaghilev. It occupies much the same position as a deep purple damask faux-pashmina that I bought in France when I was seventeen. The black and silver cotton scarf that I inherited from Héloïse.
The warm, winter scarves: the long blue slubby one that deposits fluff on the collar of whichever coat I wear it with. The red-orange circular scarf.
The white shawl that makes my navy blue dress work with my navy-and-white shoes. The pink velvet one embroidered with flowers that only goes with a tiny beige embroidered dress. The red and orange one that was a present from the in-laws and goes beautifully with the little red needlecord smock.
A red and white cotton headscarf patterned with pilgrims on foot and bicycle, which I bought in the cathedral at Santiago de Compostela.
The ones that I hardly ever wear, but that I keep because they are wonderful. An exquisitely fine black lace shawl. The shot-silk pleated green and red one from Hobbs. The hot pink feather boa from my hen night. A white fake-fur stole, lined with satin in a pattern of black and white lozenges, which I made to dress up as Cruella de Vil.
A disguise. A costume. A small strip of luxury.
August Moon: day 4
I realised a couple of weeks ago that I’ve been wearing a lot of grey this summer. I know why I’ve been wearing those particular clothes – quite by chance, these seem to be the ones that don’t get tangled in my bicycle wheels, which is an important consideration these days – but how I came to possess quite so many is a mystery. Perhaps it’s a hangover from my black-and-white university days, during which I tried to look as much as possible as if I’d been designed by Sir Cecil Beaton. That was the time that I realised that I really could get away with huge, fabulous hats. Not only could I get away with them, I could leave the police baffled and live the life of Riley on the proceeds. Gloves, too. I only really wear them for weddings these days, but I used to wear them to chapel every Sunday. Occasionally I went all black, down to the nail varnish. And the leather trousers. I still wear a lot of black in the winter, usually with red or magenta.
Anyway, leaving the monochrome aside, I like really strong, intense, colours. Mostly I gravitate towards the extreme ends of the colour spectrum – bright scarlet, deep fuchsia, royal or Roman purple – but I have a teal blouse (I don’t wear it much because it’s a pain to iron, but it’s very cheering when I do), a turquoise dress, a couple of orange tops. I add red or green into the black and grey, when I can. If I can’t, I throw silver at it. I love silver earrings. Beads, too, of all colours. I have the most gorgeous shiny black belt with a chrome buckle, which improves everything.
At the moment I am making substantial alterations to a dress I made seven or eight years ago, black circles on a jade green ground, so that I can wear it again. I have a hat to match. It’s fantastic. What about my other party dresses? There is the chequerboard dress, the little black one (short, with long lacy sleeves), the going-away dress (soft folds of navy blue), the black-and-white-striped dress (very sixties), my bridesmaid’s dress from Freya’s wedding, when I was 14 (raspberry silk, and very grown up), the long bronze one that I’ve never really known what to do with. Under the bed is my wedding dress, in a box.
The leather trousers and the hats were perhaps the first manifestation of the I will wear whatever the hell I want and not give a damn about what anyone else thinks about it attitude that I so enjoy today. Recently I’ve added bright red lipstick to that. You know what they say about girls who wear bright red lipstick? I don’t give a damn about that, either. Likewise, red hats, black knickers, short skirts. Last summer, when we were stony broke, my big indulgence was frivolous knickers. I write ever so much better when I’m wearing fancy knickers. True facts. I think it’s something to do with being impossibly glamorous.
What do I have lots of? Waistcoats. I wear waistcoats when I am being a pirate, an Elizabethan playwright (usually on a Saturday), or a Victorian governess with a secret life (at work, when I wish to convey a general impression of don’t-you-dare-mess-with-me). I have lots of long-sleeved cotton T-shirts, mostly with wide, shallow necklines. They are bright and comfortable and don’t need ironing, but go smart enough to wear to work. Dresses: V-necked, full-skirted, knee-length or above. I like skirts that swish. Bright summer skirts; a couple of pink cotton tops that work with them. Walking trousers in all sizes from 12 to 18. I’m not sure which ones fit at the moment. And a drawer full of boring T-shirts, also for walking.
There isn’t really much difference between what I wear at work and what I wear when I’m not. The work culture is pretty casual, and I’m fairly smart. Or perhaps not smart. I don’t know what the word is. Not soignée. Not serious. Occasionally, but not always, glamorous. I think what I mean is, the only difference is that I don’t wear jeans at work. Other than jeans at the weekend, I don’t wear trousers much, having discovered that I have relatively short legs for my height, and find skirts more comfortable anyway. That’s a thought: I must get another pair of black jeans. And there’s very little that has writing on. Generally speaking, I don’t wear writing unless someone’s paying me to do it. Minimal synthetics, too; I find them sweaty and irritating. Really, I’m happiest in cotton.
I got rid of lots of clothes recently, when we moved into the new flat and things had to be put in places. Everything that wasn’t quite right, that didn’t fit (unless I really, really loved it, and didn’t think I’d find another in a different size), that was just not very interesting. I’ve dumped all my print wraparound skirts – they dated from my late teenage hippy phase, when I was desperately insecure about my body. I think the green crochet one needs to go, too, or at least be shortened substantially; I’ve never worn it much, because I’m always getting it caught in things when I do. The one surviving one, which I will wear until it falls to pieces, is horizontal strips of yellow satin and yellow-and-brown plaid. I wear it in the winter with a black top and waistcoat, and a red hat. That’s a kind of gypsy musician outfit, I think. Once I played the cello in the band at a barn dance in an actual barn. In Britain, in October. I wore that, and thick black tights, and fingerless gloves. My fingers didn’t quite freeze.
Shoes. Black patent Mary Janes. I’ve always liked Mary Janes – I vaguely remember seeing them in some picture book or other when I was very small, and concluding that they were the only proper shoes. And bright colours again – the deep pink ballet slippers with the gold toes, the blue suede boots, the red ones with four straps each, the plum velvet high-heeled boots.
What, in my wardrobe, feels most like me? That’s a tough one. The last thing I bought because it was so undeniably me was one of the pink summer tops, a floppy thing like an inverted triangle, with a low V-neck and ivory cutwork embroidery. But really, I think the clothes I love the most are the ones that make me feel a little bit more than me.