Scent & Compatibility

That moment you inhale their essence for the first time.

Drink in the odourless perfume,

Emitting scent signals beyond the mask of visual cues.

The sink or swim of compatibility, wafting by.


Lottery winning lemon trees..

The daydream starts off small. Almost low key.

Fed up with chewing only on the left side of my mouth cos I desperately need to fix the teeth on my right side, I was thinking how great it would be if all I had to worry about was steeling my pride to actually show a dentist my nashers. If I actually had the cash to flash, the humiliation would be short lived and the pain of orthodontic treatment welcome. No more fake-demure, closed-mouth smiling. Bonjour open-mouthed guffawing and best of all,  bye bye chew-avoidance food choices! I could eat crusty baguette, steak, apples, and toffee all day.. most days.

Back to the real world and cottage cheese whilst I mull over the other basics that my lottery win would sort out.

I muse the imagined pleasures of: never counting or budgeting; not even noticing the end (middle in my case) of the month approaching; meal planning without considering pasta, rice or potatoes (I love all three by the way); being able to just say “great idea, lets do it!” when the kids or friends suggest an evening/day out or holiday plan; buying them shoes in multiples and before the last lot have to be binned; and paying someone to clean….just so we could sit, eat and talk together for the precious spare few hours we have at home.

I’d finally get the electricity circuit checked and modernised. How happy would I be to never again worry about the boys plugging seventeen appliances into one mega adaptor? The defunct air-conditioning system would be fixed, as would the extractor fan that only ever blew shit into the flat, before it kicked the bucket completely. Our circa 1952 bathroom suite would be cremated and replaced with anything simple and practical that isn’t the colour of nicotine. Our tiny beige kitchen, complete with broken electric hob, temporary (its been 3 years) second-hand gigantic microwave oven and empty space where the fitted fridge-freezer packed in last year, would be revved into 2017. Vibrant and efficient. Nothing fancy. IKEA will do us just fine.

I’m a virtuous hour into fantasy family building and benevolent gestures before the daydream starts to creep beyond the entirely necessary or charitable boundary: If the lads learn to drive in the Toyota then I’d have to get a new car. I never liked the Toyota anyway, but it’d be great for them….though I just can’t decide between an Alfa or a Merc… I do quite like that stunted Range Rover thing too….What if, instead of paying someone to clean, what if I just didn’t work at all? Then I wouldn’t need help to free up family time….though, in all fairness, I could probably still do with a cleaner. I mean doesn’t almost everyone have a cleaner nowadays? It isn’t normal that I cant even afford what my parents could – I’m now muttering to myself – How pathetic that I struggle more than they did at my age? I mean, shouldn’t generations be striding ahead of those previous? My head is swelling with senseless irritation as my daydream drags me into the irresistible quicksand of “can definitely survive without” territory.

I’d need a place in Seville, as well as Provence and probably Barcelona. I’d keep the family apartment in Brussels as a sort of bolthole for when I’m in town. Or maybe the boys could share it if they want to stay in Belgium? But then I’d almost certainly have to buy the one next door (which isn’t on the market) and knock through. I mean it just wouldn’t work for the two of them as it is (we’re four in the real world and our apartment is home and a happy one).

I’ve totally abandoned my morning to hedonistic reverie at this point and am loving each imagined detail. My beautiful Provençal villa. Al fresco dining all hours with happy family, friends and neighbours. No-stress travel, hopping between locations, with Provence as the hub, buzzing with life and happy noises. We have the time to listen to each other, to enjoy each other, to care for each other. No one is worried they need to run off and do something else. We have time, quite simply and everyone is relaxed and smiley. There are no deadlines, no disappointments, no resentment, no discomfort. Money can’t buy happiness perhaps, but in my fantasy world, it goes a long way towards nurturing the good seeds that we have already sown.

My daughter resuscitates me from the suffocating burden (not) of imagined wealth. She’s hungry. I havent fed her for at least two hours and despite being taller and stronger than me and being accompanied by an equally capable friend, it seems that they may actually starve if I dont personally feed them every couple of hours. It takes me a cruel minute or so to leave lala land and get my chef’s hat on. I resent my son talking to me about where I need to taxi him from and to at 5pm. It feels just as when you’re prematurely disturbed from deep sleep and know that if you can just get back there quickly then you might be able to finish the dream….but you never do. Oh the frustration… I need to get back to my lemon trees…


The world is askew, said he
Tis you that ain’t true, said me
Let me wallow, he berated
In the lies I have created
Follow blindly behind me
Allow me to deceive you kindly
Gently caress your needy soul
Destroy you from the inside
Charm you into the black hole
Le vide
One plus one equals three, said he
I’m so sorry, I can’t see, said me
Boring correctness, he debated
Unlike the jazzy truth I have created
Skip blindly aside me
Permit me to guide you to the edge
Air-kiss your ailing soul
Beguile you on the outside
Push you into the black hole
Le vide…….in which we hid a while
Serendipity nudged me awake
Not the night terrors
Not the heart tremors
Not the crushing deception
Not the all consuming grief
Walk with me, said I
For I shall empower you with my faith
Reveal the ecstasy of authenticity
Of autonomy
Extract you from the black hole
La joie
The world is as new, said he
Tis you who’s chiming true, said me
Let me wallow, he meditated
In the truth we have located

18 Summers

18 years since I glimpsed you for the first time
18 years since you made me a mum
18 years of grappling with my own mortality
18 summers since I’ve loved you until I’m numb
I weep as I write this to you
Remembering the tension of that day
Hearing the doctor muttering about oxygen
Before they whisked you away
I’d no clue what was normal
Reality, momentarily on pause
I just absorbed the oddness
And lay there in my silent bubble of noise
You were returned to me, eventually
And I recall wondering, how I should know you were mine
Our eyes met and I loved you
So began the rest of time
The rest of time has been a rollercoaster
You’re a challenging old soul
I wouldn’t change a hair on your head my darling
I just want you to survive through the cold
The cold that has often enveloped you
Though your radiant warmth pulls you through
My pain is that I can’t do it for you
Still I shadow your every move
I love your kindness
That you notice intolerance.
That fairness matters to you
That you are true
I love your courage
In the face of your difference
Though I see your pain in solitude.
I wish it could be easier for you
18 summers since I first met you
18 years of showing you my way
The stage is yours now my angel
Lead me forward to your next day.

Endless Love

I was in the middle of researching my ‘five sure signs you’re dating a Sociopath’ blog when my daughter rang from France. I haven’t heard from her for a week. Packed her off with phone (and masses of credit), charger, iPad & charger, spare chargers and forced her to memorise all my telephone numbers and email addresses.
That was last Saturday. Since then, I’ve heard nothing. Her wonderful hosts have provided elegant and lengthy description of the group’s idyllic travels through Brittany. Safe in the knowledge that she is very much alive, my ‘thoughts’ have ranged between (fake) ‘she’s obviously having a wonderful time, I’m so happy she’s embracing the freedom of her independence.’ and ‘ungrateful piece of adolescent spoilt ******* brattishness……etc etc expletive etc’.
Resisting the urge to drive 750 kms for an argument, yesterday evening (after work), was ‘tough’. I was forced to make friends with a bottle of white wine (thats all I had) since no one was around to hide the car keys from me.
Turns out my princess had tried a ton of different message paths to me, but all of her sweet nothings were returned ‘unsent’. She was in a worse state of anxiety than me and now I owe her a new leotard for greeting her call with a tirade of expletives and accusations. Luckily she doesn’t know I’d have agreed to buy her ten! She’s alive and well and I love her so much.


Millionaire Malarkey

Whilst lounging about pretending to get stuff ready for my Belgian National Day party tomorrow, I just happened to turn live TV on my tablet. I’d intended to half-watch something relaxing whilst vacuuming. But I wasn’t altogether disappointed that the channel was already set to – who did that? The shit-bag hoover was winding me up anyway. I bought the cheapest one available from my local supermarket recently after two flashy, transparent ones, that frankly should have been able to do the housework on their own for what I paid, consequtively spluttered and died, just outside their guarantee life. This cheapy is light and whizzes around the flat like a speed skater. But it doesn’t actually suck up any dust. Which can be annoying and was particularly annoying in 32 degrees.
A glass of rosé in hand (foolish not to test tomorrow’s tipple before the shops all close) I wasn’t altogether disappointed to catch Patti Stanger spitting venomous one-liners at her, frankly bizarre (not in a good way) millionaire clients on the Millionaire Matchmaker show. Patti has a matchmaking ‘club’. Super wealthy singles pay for Patti, the ‘best in the business’, to find them true love. Patti, a self-taught, third generation matchmaker with an intuitive ‘eye for the right match’ only does the job herself if you pay her shit-loads for the privilege. Otherwise she has a team of underling matchmakers, who will scurry around after the lesser millionaires. Patti’s a straight talking tough cookie from New Jersey. She talks the talk and looks the part. What a stupendously fun way to make piles of cash I was thinking, as I scrunched the cushions and lay back to test the second glass.
The membership requirements for Patti’s club are very simple: you have to be very rich; pay a massive fee; and be desperate enough to expose yourself on TV. The millionaires also all seem to be bloody obnoxious. This isn’t expressed as a requirement, but it certainly makes for great TV!
I’m not entirely sure how much weight the matchmaking / dating part really bears for either Patti or her clients, There is a distinct S&M undercurrent to the whole thing: Client pays full whack (no pun intended), eyes wide open to Patti’s reputation for ‘tough love’; Patti demeans and abuses (not quite enough to really hurt anyone); Client pretends to object, but we all know that he’s totally getting off on the experience and then goes back for more. Its genius!
Then theres the cattle market selection process where candidates willing to sell their soul (body) to the highest bidder, parade in front of Patti to get insulted: ‘you’re a sugar babe honey and the fact that you’re exhausted from working at 21 proves it. Its written all over your little sugar boobs, now get out!’. Spat my wine at that one sadly. Such a waste, its actually very good. Too good for the guests so I’m having another one.
Patti is terrifyingly acerbic. But she calls a spade a spade and she’s accurate on every count I’ve watched so far. Clever woman. I’d have thought the candidate should burn her clothes and straighten her hair too but I’d never have had the balls to tell her she’d be whiling away her retirement on her own if she didn’t remove that hedge from her head. This is a niche market and I can see why Patti is stupendously successful.
We’ve onto to Patti’s five ‘non negotiables’ now. The chosen finalists, who will attend a carefully choreographed ‘mixer’ with this week’s two millionaires, are listening intently as Patti lectures on ‘the road-map’. I’m learning that the key to life-long happiness is not love and respect after all. Its correctly identifying your five non negotiables. If that dude you want to make sweet music with doesn’t work it on your road-map then you need to ‘hit the street, cross to the other side and keep walking’. You can practically see the baywatch babes’ brains hurting as they take in this manna form Mamma.
The ‘mixer’ itself is disappointingly anti-climax. The inevitable selection of cinderella by quasimodo, followed by a jaw-dropping date punctuated with private jets, chefs and palm trees, just cannot compete with the mesmerisingly hypnotic screen presence of Queen Patti herself. With mercifully short footage devoted to the couple miserably participating in some excruciating date activity, I’m overjoyed as the camera switches back to Patti at her desk. This is the Patti show, make no mistake: ‘theres a cellular residue inside you which is blocking you and preventing you from meeting the person you should be with’ she berates. WTF does that even mean I’m thinking as I giggle (literally) and pour a last little dribble. I know its not nice to laugh at others but the bloody millionaires can look after themselves and I’m definitely not laughing at Patti!
Footnote  – devastated to learn that The Millionaire Matchmaker ended its eighth series in 2015. Though thats a whole lotta re-runs to get through….

Siblings without rivalry

The bank said yes. I was a quarter hoping they’d say no. My selfish quarter. The bit of me who’d like the weight of all this to be removed by a faceless third party. The other three quarters of me are very grateful that we can now start to make plans as a family. Get behind number one and help him to rise to this new challenge and hope that we can all somehow find the courage to enjoy my expanding portfolio of delicious ‘rice meals on a budget’ for the next twelve months…..
The whole thing terrifies me. Twenty years ago, I’d not have given the consequences of borrowing beyond my means two hoots. Now, with maturity and dependants working against me, I’ve been totting up ‘unnecessary monthly expenditure’ in my sleep. All mine, by the way: Wine; cigarettes; haircuts; and top of the range age-defying beauty products that don’t work. Frighteningly, the tot-up total isn’t far off the monthly loan repayment. But I still need to squeeze the family finances a little more.
So, I thought, as I sat my three babes down for the ‘sacrifices we all have to make’ chat, if I’m to become a long-haired, wrinkly, alcohol and tobacco free zone for the sake of my son’s education (I’m not quite ready to consider potential health benefits as an ancillary plus of any kind…..I’m sure that will come, once I’ve cracked my addictions and entered into the delirious phase) its surely not unreasonable to ask them to:
1. ALWAYS turn off lights, unless you are actually in the room AND need light;
2. NEVER throw clean clothes on the floor or in the washing basket because you can’t be bothered to hang that wrong choice back up;
3. WEAR deodorant as this will not only make you more appealing to others around you, but also means that you MAY be able to wear jumpers twice before they need washing;
4. LEARN to hate seafood, steak, duck and all (disgustingly unhealthy anyway) take-aways as these treats are now off the menu, apart from the occasional ‘Mardi Malin’ at PizzaHut and any luxuries that I can fight for in the M&S evening price-slash;
5. GRACIOUSLY accept ‘no’ if I tell you there is no money for you to go to the cinema EVER.
6. GET yourself a part-time job if you are over sixteen and DO NOT complain when I expect you to actually spend your own money (as an aside – Please also CONSIDER buying other people presents. You may even find this rewarding….); and
7. ACCEPT that mum is going to be a little bit tired and a lot miserable for a (considerably long) while. DO NOT fault her for this. DO NOT even think frustration. Mum has already sacrificed the delights of a social life for your benefit and will now be eliminating (most) indoor treats from her life too. Mum hates rice but is determined to embrace it in all forms for the next twelve months. This is a bigger sacrifice than any of you are being asked to make….
The chat went well. Unpredictably well. We managed five minutes without anyone checking a screen or fake burping. I was just about to launch into a re-hash of what I’d already said, when my daughter looked up and said ‘C’est bon mummy. C’est notre grand frère’.
And that was that. I was catapulted back to reading them this bedtime story, ‘Mon Grand Frère’ by Pauline Martin. They all used to find it hilarious. My daughter, because she felt it was written for her, with the little sister in the book narrating her thoughts and my boys because they associated with the big boy character. His long hair and penchant for actively ignoring his little sister and eating her share of dinner if she looked the other way. They seemed to miss the subliminal stuff that children’s stories often carry. But two pages would always grab me and make me smile: when the little girl observes that big brothers sometimes get sad and cry and then the final page, when the little sister says (after the latest indignity of being hunted by her big bro with a toy gun) that you can’t just change a big brother like that. You have to make do with the one you’ve got.
It seems the subliminal has become the conscious. There is no need to understand why your big brother is sad, nor should we try to change him. We love and support him, just as he is and thats all that counts.