Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
A couple of years ago, when we still lived in Germany, we visited the Königsmuseum in Bonn and saw a film about Inuit constructing an igloo. The museum also had a set of large white blocks so that you could have a go at making your own (perhaps they still have them - I hope so, because my kids thought they were fab). I'm not sure whether it was that museum visit that sowed the seeds of the idea, but this week, when the snow lay thick upon the ground here in Flanders, Sporty Outdoor Hubs suddenly decided to build his own igloo. The kids joined in, too.
Friday, December 3, 2010
The Vanishing of Katharina Linden has now been published in Great Britain, the USA, Holland, Germany and Spain (still to come: Norway, who have already published The Glass Demon, Brazil, Italy and Romania). I'm fascinated to see the different ways in which the book has been interpreted in the cover art.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Update: there is now a DVD version with English subtitles.
Thursday, November 25, 2010
"Well," said my husband when I called him from Barcelona, "How are they treating you?"
Monday, November 22, 2010
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Thursday, November 11, 2010
Friday, November 5, 2010
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Friday, September 17, 2010
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
So, farewell summer. Here in Belgium the leaves are starting to turn orange, there are conkers all over the ground, and the rain has set in for the next ten months. The summer holidays this year were slightly frantic, as I attempted to finish my third novel in spite of the family trip to France, a visit from my brother, my son’s birthday, and my two children hanging around saying “Are we going to do something today, then?” I always have a mammoth “essay crisis” over the summer but this year I was even more behind than usual. I suppose therefore that it must have been a fit of temporary insanity which led me to offer to have a friend’s puppy for two weeks whilst she was away….yes, I offered, in spite of the fact that the last time I had a family dog was when I was 18 months old, and my parents had to find a new home for the family Basset hound after it kept knocking me over and trashing the house. I’m very fond of animals (except ones with more than six legs) and I adore our two cats, but when it comes to dogs I am a complete novice…and it shows.
During the two weeks of dogsitting, I posted regular updates on my Facebook wall. The “temporary dog” gained a minor following and I even had a request for further details of his exploits after he had left (perhaps I should be gratified that my travails provided such amusement; thanks sis). So here is my diary of our “dog days”, and if any of you are thinking of caving in to your kids’ demands for a puppy, let this be a warning to you…
8th August Off to feed a friend's guinea pig and rabbits first thing in the morning. Dog sitting from Wednesday. Babysitting someone's kids on 19th. Hope I don't mess up at some point and feed the guinea pig to the dog or something.
11th August The dog we are dogsitting for the next two weeks has arrived. We now have 2 kids and 1 mutt running like mad things up and down the garden. :-S
The temporary dog was caught chewing the phone charger cable. This does not bode well. I am keeping my MacBook Pro and its pristine white cables well out of his way!!!
12th August Yapping frenzy from the temporary dog today when I got out the hoover. Ginger the cat meanwhile is red nosed and sneezing and has a vet's appointment this evening. Thus far the rabbits, guinea pig, terrapins and gerbils are all surviving.
(later) Oh noes. The vet says Ginger has an infection caused by stress.
13th August Gordon goes out and the temporary dog sits at the door whining and scratching. I go out, and the temporary dog shrugs his shoulders and goes back to foraging in the compost bin.
Watched the temporary dog frolicking on the sofa with a plastic bottle he has been chewing. Asked small son, "Do you want a dog then?" He looked at the temporary dog dubiously and said, "Not one like that."
The owners of the guinea pig and the two rabbits comes home tomorrow so then it will just be one temporary dog, one invalid cat, two gerbils and two terrapins.
15th August The temporary dog eats cat food. And clothes pegs. :-S
16th August The temporary dog is in deep, deep disgrace for shooting out of the front door between Gordon's feet and running across the road. Luckily for him, there was nothing coming. He knows he's been bad; he's curled up in a very small ball looking extremely sorry for himself.
(later) I think something interesting ought to happen all of a sudden.
Oh bugger. It has. The temporary dog has piddled all over the floor.
17th August I would still like something sudden and interesting to happen as long as it doesn't need cleaning up afterwards.
Oh noes. Just when you think life can't crank up the "ew" factor any higher....you discover that the temporary dog has worms. :-S
Hahahahahaha! The temporary dog is all wet. He couldn't resist the lake in the park. And now we know he is not actually a temporary dog at all but a temporary rat!!!
18th August I have 4 kids running around here, plus 1 temporary dog, 1 permanent cat and 2 gerbils. I feel like Noah, esp. with all this bloody rain.
Now past caring whether kids spending 8 hours straight playing Nintendo rots their brains. Anything is better than this mayhem. Please kids, teach the bloody dog to play Super Mario too, will you?
Things are getting a bit intense here. Now even the temporary dog is hiding from the children.
19th August Listening to Clouseau singing "laat me nu toch niet alleen" and wondering why anyone would say "don't leave me alone" - I DREAM of being left alone for 5 minutes.
(later) I grudgingly admit that the temporary dog is not that bad after all. He's kind of growing on me, in a slobbery hairy chewy sort of way.
NB This last post provoked the following reply from my friend Todd:
Todd Treichel 'Really? You probably haven't seen these all in one place, but because of a temporary dog we once had with similarly beguiling traits, I sent the following list of phrases from your FB posts to my wife:
"Temporary dog eats cat food. And clothes pegs."
"The temporary dog is in deep, deep disgrace for shooting out the door between Gordon's legs and into the street..."
"puddle of piddle"
"chewing up my house"
"digging in the compost bucket, and in the garden where our dear departed cat lies"
"the whole family are now upstairs hiding" (from the previous two items)
"Just when you think that life can't crank up the "eww" factor any higher..."
"temporary dog has worms"
"Possibly the whole house may need to be sealed off and covered with black and yellow signs reading LEVEL 3 BIOHAZARD"
Perhaps he's not mean or violent, but he has completed most of the rest of the checklist. If he throws up a dead rat in your bedroom, then he will have it all covered.'
(later) Temporary dog is begging Gordon Grant to take him out for walkies. So, having stolen the cat's dinner, my son's Dr.Who pencil, my peace of mind and my clothes pegs, he now wants to take hubby away.
Gordon Grant, stop telling the dog I am his "temporary mum"!!! I said he wasn't quite as bad as I thought, not that I wished I had given birth to him.
20th August NB David Longhorn is the - ahem - highly respected editor of Supernatural Tales.
Helen Grant Temporary dog, do not imagine for ONE minute that you are going to be allowed in that swimming pool. It takes 4 people about 78 years to set it up, costs about a trillion euros in water to fill, and is NOT going to be full of dog hairs and canine bodily fluids. OK?
David Longhorn My client insists that he has no intention of venturing into the swimming pool. However, my client gives fair warning that children shouting 'Come on in doggie!' might be construed as a verbal contract to get all wet.
Helen Grant I put it to you that your client has every intention of venturing into the swimming pool, and that he has in fact already entered said pool on one occasion and when challenged said "Woof."
David Longhorn My client may have unwittingly trespassed on the poolular zone while attempting to rescue a drowning beetle, as any good citizen would.
Helen Grant I have here in my hand a signed statement from the beetle in question, admitting that he was not in fact drowning and that he had been in receipt of several grammes of dog dung prior to the supposed "rescue" incident.
David Longhorn Would you consider a plea bargain involving a squeaky toy and half a box of Winalot, or equivalent comestible?
Helen Grant My learned friend displays a deplorable indifference to the principle involved. In the event of further pool incursions we shall be pressing for the severest possible penalties, including confiscation of toys both squeaky and non-squeaky, confinement to kennels and the awarding of six boxes of Winalot to the cat.
The prosecution calls upon Ginger Grant (cat).
Ginger Grant I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help me God. The dog done it, M'Lord. I seen im.
David Longhorn This witness has been coached, and about as convincingly as the English soccer team.
Helen Grant We concede that the witness requires some assistance with translation from Cat to English, and request that he should not be subjected to felinist innuendo. However the fact remains that the defendant was apprehended with wet paws.
David Longhorn After conferring, we're prepared to plead to the lesser charge of trespass on a temporary pond while the balance of our tail was disturbed.
Helen Grant And upon the charge of felinist abuse, how does your client plead?
David Longhorn He intends to appeal to the International Canine Court, in Dalmatia.
Ginger Grant Send im down M'Lord. Me feelings is urt something terrible.
Helen Grant We wish to present damning new evidence. The dog has just been observed not only with all four paws in the pool but actually SWIMMING in it. Four witnesses were present, not including the cat and the beetle.
David Longhorn My client is but an innocent young dog, easily led astray by the worldly and cynical 'Jet Set' household into whose care he was entrusted. Have mercy, your honour, on a dog more sinned against than sinning. It may be a fair cop, but society is to blame. And so on and so forth. And that is some of the worst Cockney cat acting seen in a court since the Lady Chatterly trial.
Ginger Grant Felinist! I appeal to the court.
David Longhorn But not to me.
Ginger Grant M'Lord! I'm being oppressed by canine fundamentalists!
David Longhorn Send him off, ref, where are your specs?
Helen Grant We request a short recession in order that my witness the cat can compose himself after this tirade of felinist abuse.
Furthermore we call upon the court to observe the photographic evidence displayed above, which clearly shows the dog not only attempting to gain access to the pool but actually immersed in said pool. I rest my case.
David Longhorn It's the Apollo hoax all over again. The shadows are all wrong, the grass is fake, and if you follow the girl's line of sight she's actually looking at a distant greenfinch.
Helen Grant My learned colleague is surely attempting a pleasantry and will no doubt shortly announce that the photograph was taken by Shergar on the grassy knoll.
David Longhorn All right, I call upon Charles Darwin and Sons to explain that dogs like water due to several million years of evolution and there's no point in legislating against FACT! The rational defence - never actually tried in a court of law before today.
Helen Grant May I counter this proposterous line of argument by pointing out that human beings are carnivores but that does not justify leaping a five barred gate into a field and biting a cow.
David Longhorn It does where I live.
Helen Grant I suggest that the jury retire and consider the verdict.
David Longhorn Erm, there's a jury? Wow.
Helen Grant Of course there is a jury. What did you think this was, a kangaroo court?
David Longhorn If a kangaroo were on trial I'd have noticed.
Todd Treichel We're calling the jury back in from the pasture where they lunched, ma'am. Just be a minute cleaning up.
Helen Grant I think we can rely on the witness the beetle to do that.
(Solemn voice-over) The dog, anticipating a custodial sentence, made an unwarranted break for freedom and was apprehended in the street. He has been sentenced to an unlimited period in solitary confinement. Thus ends another career in crime.
The cat was awarded substantial damages and retired to Catalonia where he lives to this day, amusing himself with catnip and much younger kittens. The beetle, having cried "wolf" once too often, drowned in a latte macchiato in the middle of a crowded Starbucks, surrounded by people who thought that he was once again "putting it on". David Longhorn is still at large.
21st August Not a good day so far. Exhausted after dog howled until 3 am. Already shouted at kids. Will go offline until feeling a bit more human....see you all around 2012 AD.
(later) The temporary dog has reached a new nadir of nastiness. Whilst we were all in the pool he was apprehended licking a pair of knickers.
Hmmmm. The temporary dog is chewing a mouthful of spaghetti. Unless he has grown wings and flown onto the work surface, he's had his nose in the compost bin again. :-S
(later) Sleep. I'm so tired I keep hallucinating. I think there are gerbils and cats and dogs all trying to eat each other.
22nd August Another gruesome night. I suspect the animals in this house of living off Red Bull and Pepsi Max. Otherwise how can they stay up all night howling/meowing/scratching/trying to eat each other? :-(
The temporary dog saw the sun coming up over the fields at the back of the garden, heard the cock crowing a couple of doors down, and thought "My work here is done." He has stopped howling and is absolutely silent.
Now I know why the bible says Noah lived to be 950 years old. This morning I bloody well feel 950 years old too.
23rd August Stuff the temporary dog has chewed today: a piece of paper, a bottle top, a pencil, a glove, a chip from the compost bucket, me.
Somewhere, at this very moment in a little Flemish village, is a woman whose heroism, whose tale of selfless sacrifice, may never be fully told. This is the woman about to become the temporary dog's new Mummy. Bless you, unnamed woman, for your services to my sleep patterns.
24th August Gosh. The temporary dog has found a patch of sunlight 12 inches square and gone to sleep in it. The Angel of the Lord must have descended and spread peace everywhere or something.
"Dog, what have you been eating? Your breath stinks!" says horrified hubs, trying to fight the dog off. "Urgh....I think it's the compost heap."
Tee hee. Ginger the cat has taken to sitting halfway up the stairs and meowing loudly for someone to come and carry him past the temporary dog to the door so he can go out. Then he sits in my arms telegraphing his disdain at the dog as he passes it.
(later) From 11am tomorrow I am no longer the temporary dog's temporary mum.
25th August The temporary dog has finally made it upstairs into Ginger the cat's sacred domain. Gordon was sitting at his desk when he heard SNUFFLE SNUFFLE SNUFFLE SNUFFLE YELP YELP YELP WHIIIIIINE! He came out to find the dog at the bottom of the stairs quivering in abject terror and Ginger on the top step looking smug.
Temporary dog gone in 3...2...1
Helen Grant hears the patter of tiny feet. Ginger is patrolling the house, checking that the temporary dog is really an ex temporary dog…