Archive for January, 2004


We have a new apartment. It’s 910 square feet, an extra 103 1/3 square feet for each of us (humans, that is. Bebe will have to lurk.)

I want to decorate mine in French Provincial and Japanese prints. Jeremy’s going to do WiFi in his. Claire, I think, is planning to fill hers with toys.

zerbut, zerbit, zurbit?

C has learned how to press her mouth against parts of my body and do raspberries. I don’t know how to spell the technical term for this, as you can see in the headline there. Did I mention she learned this at 3am? She was awake and delighted to be with her favourite people. She played for an hour. Everything was hilarious. She was adorable. Oh the precious precious laughter of children. I am so tired.

i tilt at windmills

When all your friends are terrifyingly clever, like mine, you have the occasional day when you just can’t win a trick. This morning, for instance, I mentioned to Jeremy that I was considering going back to church now I’m an atheist, and isn’t that funny?

J: You think it has no power over you any more.


R: Go and get on your train, professor.

Now I have tacitly challenged Seth to a lipogram duel, in which I am certain to be trounced.

australia day!

I celebrated by having a cold, and not getting much work done.

Shannon came over. She is a complex creature. There’s lots of her, and you never know which one you’re going to get. I like them all, but this evening’s was one of my particular favourites: tipsy, contemplative Shannon, telling salacious stories about her colourful past.

don’t know if i agree with your police work there

People used to say they found the Coen Brothers a bit cold and clever-clever, which I never really got until this weekend, when we watched O Brother Where Art Thou? and The Man Who Wasn’t There back to back. Fabulous casts both, fantastic music – Beethoven and Dan Tyminski are genii – plus the first time Jeremy and I have truly liked Billy-Bob in a role, but my final impression was …meh. Nothing to match those quiet exchanges between Marge and Norm in Fargo. Eggs. You should have eggs. We’re pretty lucky, eh?

Claire turned thirteen months old. I respectfully submit that she is the most fun thing in the whole entire world.


paternity, sweet

Josh: We had the best afternoon! I put on Britney Spears’ new album and Rowan was dancing away… I told him that when he grows up a bit he can play with my Britney Spears doll. But not yet.


Me: I love Josh.

Carole: Isn’t he great? I’m so glad Rowan gets to have his masculine influence.

Me: Yeah, he’ll grow up knowing where to shop, and how to decorate a room.

Carole: Yeah, and moisturize!

Me: Seriously, though, three parents. That’s genius. We should have thought of that.

pax romana

She’s taken to raiding the laundry hamper in the joyful, joyful early mornings when she’s had enough sleep (at our expense) and our home rings with the delightful laughter of children.

What she’s after is a t-shirt of Jeremy’s that she can pull over her head and wear like a toga. Senator Claire.

fever dream

He’s been obscurely ill.

“I dreamed I was working on all of the Democratic candidates’ campaigns at the same time. Each candidate was assigned a different cube in my mind, and I could only get glimpses of what was going on inside the cubes.”

“So, like watching a bank of monitors?”

“Sort of, but in 3D…”


“I just remembered something about when I was a kid. My Dad used to take me horseriding and we’d ride home on his motorbike. My hands smelled of horses, and you know what that’s like, I absolutely loved the smell and my hands smelling of it made me ecstatic. Then we’d stop at McDonalds for a Big Mac and I’d eat it with my hands smelling of horses, and it was just like the ultimate in comfort food. Like you saying about your grandmother and the tea and scones.”

“Only gross.”

“Well, yeah.”

geek dads

I’m absurdly prejudiced in favour of geek fathers. My Dad’s one – he’s retired now, but he potters around the Murray River investigating irrigation and locks, just for fun. Jeremy’s Dad is another: when we went to the Parc Guell in Barcelona, he amused us inordinately by singing “Funiculi, funicula” in memory of the cable car that used to carry you up there.

Jeremy, perhaps needless to say, is a geek dad, as are Adrian, Bryan, Jonathan and Michael. Yesterday saw a further addition to the ranks. Opening gifts at the Sherman-Jaramillo baby shower, nj encountered a teething toy. He played with it thoughtfully for a moment, then said:

“Good. This will teach her about degrees of freedom.”


“I’ve been volunteering at this place, Familia, that helps Latino kids with their homework. And there’s this one girl, Michelle, she’s probably second or third grade, seven or eight years old, and she has a huge crush on me. It started with her just giggling when she saw me, but then the other day she walked past me and pinched me on the butt! I had to say ‘Don’t do that!’

“Then these other kids, boys – you know how kids ask you something really fast, and then ask ‘Yes or no?’ They were doing that, and I told them, ‘Just do your homework’, but then later I said ‘No’ to something and they all laughed and said, ‘You just said you were a girl!’ They’d been asking if I was a girl or a boy. They thought it was hilarious.

“And then Michelle jumped in and said ‘He is not a girl!'”

oh, great

Now I’m the one and only Google hit for “sweaty wattles”. Why couldn’t it be something cool, like “toddletron”?

reunion, recycling

Here is the grin alluded to earlier. Jeremy calls this picture “Claire, wary of a competitor”.


Had an odd morning. Woke from a nightmare where Grant, Kirsty, Jeremy, Claire and I had ended up in a giant youth hostel in a shopping mall, all chrome and strip-lighting. One of the youths, a fat, spotty boy, was a serial killer. His big thing was cutting out peoples’ spines, the way you butterfly a chicken. I dragged Jeremy out to the taxi stand to get away, but we spent months and months in waiting in line for a taxi, during which time the serial killer developed a crush on me, lost weight and kept coming around with flowers and chocolate.

I was woken by the sound of garbage bins being bashed together, which is normal on a Thursday, but the sound went on and on.

“I think our garbagemen want to be drummers,” I said to Jeremy.

“It can’t be bins. It must be a construction project,” he claimed, and padded over to the window.

“Oh,” he said, “you’re right. There are hundreds of bins out there.”



Recycling has come to Alabama Street.


Here you can see one of the garbagemen playing a bin like a drum.



The ratatouille was great, with a non-canonical but pleasantly sharp English cheddar grated over the top. The bread pudding was celestial, the best I’ve ever made. Don’t know if it was the goat’s milk or the water bath I baked it in or the slow, cool oven that gave it such a silky, luscious texture. More experiments are called for.

Reading Mortals, Norman Rush’s very-long-awaited follow-up to Mating, one of my favourite novels. I keep wanting to call it Mordles after a memorable review of a Bruce Willis-Demi Moore movie I never saw. Demi’s accent was so bad, the reviewer said, that the film should have been titled Mordle Torts.

Rush’s prose is as delectable as ever, but ten or twelve chapters in, I have to admit I am bugged by what I perceive as two flaws. First, the story is told as stream-of-consciousness, rather than the flashback of the earlier book. The structure of Mating let the narrator (Karen, apparently, but I’ll never get used to calling her that) leave out the prosaic parts. In Mortals you’re immersed in Ray’s consciousness as he walks down the street, with random memories and associations flitting about. It’s tremendously well observed, but it is at times, and it galls me to admit this, a bit boring. Ray waits for a gap in traffic. There’s no gap. There’s no gap. There’s a gap. Ray crosses the road.

This wouldn’t be so much of a problem if it weren’t for flaw two. I don’t like Ray much. He’s uxorious, usually a big hit with me, but he loves Iris in a whipped-cur kind of way. Something’s up between them and instead of saying “What’s up with us?” he slinks around. He hates his brother, which I find hard to forgive. And as a spy, he compares very unfavourably with Stephen Maturin (who doesn’t?)

Ray takes money for his work and in one excruciating scene, allows his chief to humiliate him. Stephen killed men for less, much less. Not that I think Stephen’s bloodthirstiness is an amiable trait or even possible to transfer to Gabarone in 1991, but Ray just sits there and takes it. A man with a spine would have told Chet Boyle to go and fuck himself. Ray’s too invested in the idea of himself as a spy. Without the agency, he’s just another Milton scholar, which makes him feel impotent. Which makes him impotent.

Oh, oh, I just figured out why that scene squicked me so much: Chet Boyle is Keith Power, right down to the sweaty wattles! Mystery solved! Delicate shudder. I just hope Keith doesn’t ego-surf Google…

tired and hungry

And no sign of the man, who missed his train again. But dinner should be yummy: ratatouille and rice, with a vanilla and goat’s-milk bread pudding to follow.

Claire hoots.


Late at night, at the house of Fitzhardinges:

J: Guess what I’ve got?

R: A baby?

J: And she’s asleep.

R: Guess what I’ve got?

J: I don’t know. What have you got?

R: A half-knitted scarf.

J: And a ball of wool.


J: It doesn’t get any better than this.

mister noah

My big ole Swedish Warmblood is alive and thriving, thin and immensely tall, much taller and more emergency-orange than he was this time two years ago, I am sure. He still walks with his head in the air and his white-stockinged legs swinging out in front of him, a self-proclaimed prince among ponies. He’s been living in Point Reyes, in a place so ridiculously beautiful it could have been one of the sets for the Lord of the Rings. Seeing him made me so happy that I am still grinning.


“Ruby was sitting in the back of the car, saying ‘One, worms. Two, snakes. Three, lions…’ John said: ‘What’s that, Ruby?’ And she said: ‘Things I don’t like.'”


I first tried it ten years ago, when I was working with Fred at Pierre’s in Temple Bar. Now, every winter, the madness descends, and I roam the city in search of white beans, goose confit, the crust broken six times and allowed to remain the seventh time it forms.

Last night, Bistro Clovis: a perfect cassoulet in the style of Toulouse. Jeremy had salmon in a banana leaf. The tarte tatin was also superb, with tender pastry, caramelized apples and a dollop of dense, sour creme fraiche. All with a bouncy Beaujolais that inspired me to song.

give it to us, we wants it!

Forgot to tell you what his birthday present was: a top-of-the-line 40GB iPod, silver, engraved with his email address. Coolest toy EV-AH. Send MP3s.