Saturday, September 30, 2006
It’s weekend, so I cruise the house in ridiculous shorts, a T-shirt that’s so old it has more holes than textile and a very wrong print on the front, a hammer in my left hand and a screwdriver in my right. My mission for the day is to install a cat flap. Our cats can roam freely since a couple of weeks, and as long as it’s summer we just left the door wide open. But now the evening chill enters the house, not to mention a gazillion mosquitoes.
Buying a cat flap isn’t as easy as it used to be. You have your ordinary flap, then one price-category up there’s the windproof flap, followed by the windproof flap with a button that allows you to decide whether the cats can only get in, get out, get in and out or stay locked inside. Towards the top of the range there is the cat flap that only opens if your cat carries a small magnet on its collar. And for the wealthy cat owner there are the cat flaps with infra-red digital entry codes so that only your cat gets in and not that ridiculous – not to say common – cat from the neighbours that doesn’t even have a pedigree. We settled on the not-quite-top-of-the-range model that works with a magnet to keep other cats out and give ours free access if and when we allow them. It also has this gizmo that’s supposed to show you if your cat is indoors our outdoors.
The instructions were clear and simple, basically you have to cut a hole in the door and then attach both sides of the frame to the inside and outside of the door. Ready is cheese (klaar is kees*), as we say here. Only the first step gave me a lot of trouble: measure the height of your cats body above the ground.
I chased Snijeg trough the house for half an hour with my measuring tape in hand. It didn’t help that I fumbled and stumbled in the beginning and then it got worse because he took refuge on the stairs and then onto the attic. It’s a jungle of boxes and junk, so I tried to lure him out by pretending I wasn’t interested in him anymore and that I just wanted to play with the packing paper in the boxes. Curiosity killed the cat – he came out of his hiding place – but it didn’t get him measured up. He ran back downstairs with me and the measuring tape in hot pursuit.
He was long gone by the time Mr. Super Athlete entered the kitchen, but there was Macka, completely unaware of my evil plans. It took him only two seconds to figure them out, so he too scrambled for the open garden door and left me not as much as his shadow to measure.
So I made a rough estimate. It worked out fine.
* translation may not be completely correct
Friday, September 29, 2006
Rocket Assisted Waking-Up
My wife and I are both very busy people. So busy, that a full day’s work is not enough for us. So we continue our activities during the night. I, for instance, work on my coming acting career. At the moment I’m learning how to really get into a character. I started with simple things, such as chain-saws and gradually moved to more complex real characters such as grizzly-bears. If I continue at this pace, in a couple of weeks I will be able to play the most perfect ‘snoring man’ that you’ve ever seen (or rather, heared). You can imagine what concentration this demands, it’s really tiring.
Mrs. Bartlog on the other hand ponders. She can lay awake half of the night thinking about things, or rather worrying about things. By the time the sun thinks about lifting its head over the horizon, she has convinced herself that things are getting out of hand and that action should be taken now. So the moment I tentatively open one eye, or just twitch it during my sleep, she gives her analysis of the situation and explains what we have to do right away, in a load and agitated voice.
The effect on me is absolutely startling. It’s like reaching out of bed with a sleepy head for your slippers, only to notice that somehow your feet got strapped to two patriot missiles that blast off in different directions. Normally it takes me an hour or so to really be counted among the living, but every time she does this I cling to the ceiling.
‘We’re virtually bankrupt’, she shouted this morning in a panicky voice. ‘We have loads of bills to pay, I have to save money to pay my taxes next year and we’ll have to pay the insurance for the car next year in May!’
I mumble some calming words, but she’s not nearly finished.
‘We can’t spend anymore on the house! If we’ve spent all the money for the month, you’ll just have to postpone things until later!’
Wait a minute! She was the one that decided that I should refurbish 6 rooms before the end of the year! And I was the one who said a while ago that we should slow things down because we don’t have the necessary time or budget. So why is she yelling at me?
I unfasten the missiles, put on my slippers and stumble down the stairs. Honestly, there should be a law against some female practices so early in the morning. And why is my throat so dry? It feels like I’ve been shouting all night.
Wednesday, September 27, 2006
I was already grumpy to begin with, when I returned home from work yesterday. It had been a long and tedious day. Not that anything went wrong, but it was just a very long and very tedious day.
When I got home, I turned on the TV to listen to the news while I pealed the potatoes (Wiener Schnitzel on the menu). Alas, no sound, no vision. Or rather, a short message telling me that there’s something wrong with the digital signal and that I should call the cable company.
So I walk to the phone with a deep sigh. It was just one of those days. And it wasn’t going to get better, because the phone didn’t work either. It was working, because there was text on the display, but there was no signal. It started dawning on me what could be the problem, and I quickly ran upstairs to start up the computer and check my theory. And indeed, no access to the internet.
Luckily, we still have cell phones and for once its battery wasn’t empty on the wrong moment. So I called up the helpdesk of our provider (Telenet), pressed 2, then 1, then 3 and then waited for half an hour listening to a stupid tape claiming that an operator would help me in just a moment. Robo-woman also mentioned that I could find help by surfing to their webpage. You stupid recorded woman!
Finally I got a human voice on the line, and I explained my problems in detail. He made me run some tests, and then decides there’s nothing he can do. He’ll have to send over a technician.
‘Fine’, I say, ‘when can he come’.
He asks me if I want him to come in the morning or in the afternoon.
‘Neither’, I say. ‘My wife and I both have to work, you know.’
No problem, we’ll just rip you off for a mere 15 € and send someone over in the evening. I comply, what else can I do. In my mind I see my anorexic piggy bank wither and roll over on its side to die with a long, gurgling cry.
A bit later my wife returns home from the horse-riding centre, and she empties the mail box while I explain her what’s happened. ‘No television for two days’ I conclude.
‘Hold on’, she says as she finds a note left behind by a Telenet technician. It says: ‘Our technician presented himself at your door but there was no-one at home. So he cut your connection in your absence as you requested’.
Wait a minute, we never requested such a thing! With steam coming out of her ears, my wife (who’s a solicitor/lawyer for those of you who just tuned in) grabs the telephone and puts the poor woman on the other line before the verbal equivalent of a firing squad. Sensitive as I am I cower away to the kitchen.
So apparently, the couple from which we bought the house almost five months ago asked Telenet to cut their connection. We buy the house, register it, ask Telenet to install a modem, two phone lines and a digital recorder with TV connection, change our subscription and pay a year in advance for all these connections. And THEN Telenet sends over a technician to cut the line of people who don’t live there anymore, as is clearly indicated on the bell that the guy had to push in order to find out if we were at home or not. When I call the helpdesk, they didn’t know about this request, which means that they don’t work with a centralised database with all their customers information. I imagine they have this big board hanging on the wall with thousands of post-its. Once in a while someone takes a post-it and does what it says, without knowing if its still relevant.
I always thought something like this would happen, because although they have very high speed internet connections, if Telenet can make an administrative blunder the size of which would leave Kafka himself dumbfounded, they shall do so!
End of rant, please continue. Nothing more to see here people!
Monday, September 25, 2006
To prevent our social life from really coming to a complete standstill, we visited some friends this Saturday evening. Despite the four of us being very tired – which showed because we couldn’t help yawning and you know how it is when one person starts that game – it was very nice. Of course, since they also bought a house recently, the conversation quickly turned to the various aspects of home-ownership, moving from one place to another and settling in.
- ‘So’, said my friend’s wife, ‘it’s not that far from the cemetery.’
- ‘No’, I replied.
- ‘I always wondered, if you’re sitting in your garden can you smell the crematorium?’
Stunned looks all around. She was dead serious.
- ‘Yes’, I recovered quickly, ‘every time I smell that scent I feel like setting up the barbecue.’
Friday, September 22, 2006
After the torrential rains of August, September has been quite nice. This week we had some pretty high temperatures, so I opened up the window of our office/magma chamber to cool off and to pretend I was walking outside and didn’t have to work at all.
Suddenly, my total concentration and focus on my work was broken by a little bird flying trough the open window into our office. It flew around a bit, and then tried to get out again. But it missed the open window and bumped its head on the glass pane next to it. Surprised and shaken, it flew to the lamp to recover and understand what the hell had happened.
It was right above me and I could see it was a Great Tit (no cheap comments please, surf to jerkoff.com if you can’t control yourself). It waited a bit and then flew to the window, this time without banging its head into it. Instead it examined this annoying human made barrier until it found the open window again and scurried off.
Leaving the big ugly bird to stew in its cage.
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
There is there one yeary hoorah, hoorah!
That can you well see that is he.
And that’s why sing we glad yes yes!
And that’s why sing we glad.
(Er is er een jarig hoera, hoera!
Dat kun je wel zien dat is hij.
En daarom zingen wij blij, ja ja!
En daarom zingen wij blij.)
Bartlog celebrates its first birthday, dear readers. I’d almost forgotten about it, or more correctly, I did forget about it because my first post was on the 9th of September. But let’s not spoil the fun, I’m used to postponing my birthdays because half of the time I’m on a mission abroad for my work and I have to wait until I return before the party can really start.
When I started my blog I wondered if I would be able to keep it up and find enough material to write about on a regular base. I also wondered if my antics would get any attention, given the incredible explosion in the number of blogs lately. On the other hand, many of those new weblogs quickly disappear, making Bartlog a bit of a veteran despite its tender age.
So what will be on the menu, the coming year? Do I have anything left to write about, after burning up so carelessly all spectacular material that you can expect in a man’s life: the wedding, the new house, the new car,… Well, I can only say that especially for your reading pleasure, I will dive head first and completely blindfolded into a series of new developments that will be a source of inspiration for soap-opera scriptwriters for centuries to come. Feel the suspense as I hack away brick after brick until my house is on the brink of collapse! Shout in anger when my wife finally puts me on a diet! Cry tears of joy when I finally find the highly-paid executive job I really deserve! That and much more on Bartlog…
Coming soon to a theatre near you.
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Julia, my wife’s horse, had colic yesterday. Colic is a bit more serious for a horse than for a baby, mostly because they can die in a matter of hours because of it (horses that is, not babies). Horses’ intestines are not all that well designed and they can easily have an obstruction. Spring is the most dangerous time, when the horses go out on the meadows for the first time. During winter, they get only hay, straw and dried food, so they just love the young juicy green grass. They love it so much that they just eat too much at a time, and especially when the grass is too long they can get bowel obstructions that cause extreme pain: colic.
So the owner of the stables called my wife, and she called the vet. He showed up terribly late and by that time my wife almost got colicky. She was not amused that Julia had to wait that long, especially because our sweet mare is expecting a foal. But he escaped strangulation on the spot by giving Julia an injection and telling my precious one to walk here around for thirty minutes. Enough time for him to escape through the back entrance.
When I woke up this morning, my tummy ached too. I felt like I had to throw up the whole time, which is unfair because I didn’t drink a single drop of alcohol yesterday. It feels like Julia has passed on her disease to me. So I stayed home today from work, trying to rest while man next door is drilling holes in the brick walls of the extension they added to their house a couple of months ago. So yet again, my suffering knows no bounds.
If it doesn’t get better by tomorrow, I will call Julia’s vet.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Constructive Inter-Species Dialogue
The long version
And what the hell do you think you’re doing?
Don’t play innocent with me! I’ve caught you red-pawed. You where scratching the wall paper again.
Oh that! I just thought… you know, I’d make it a bit comfy.
That’s very expensive wall paper you know. It took me ages to prepare the wall. We’re working our ass off to make it a bit homely, and you two rip everything to shreds.
Hang on, that’s not fair! You got to choose the wall paper, and the paint. We didn’t have any say in this. How can we express your individuality? You humans seem to think you own the place…
Well, we do have to cough up a nice sum of money for it FOR THE NEXT 25 YEARS!
Yes, but we live here too, you know. Look at the doorbell, it just says you two live here. We’re not mentioned there.
How would you know, you’re not supposed to go to the front of the house, remember?
Err, yes. I have this from a reliable source. The point is, you’ve marked out your territory for all to see, but how about us? We also want to express that we live here. And for a cat that means that we have to scratch things.
Oh, I don’t mind that you scratch things. How about that very tall, lumbering and expensive scratching post that we bought you last year? You know, the one you’re sitting on.
Oh please, you don’t expect us to express our individuality by means of mass produced consumer goods! It’s like giving a colouring book to a graffiti artist!
Then go mark your territory outside, artist! There’s a full 25 metres of hedge waiting for you to explore your individuality.
And get resin stains all over my fur? You must be joking!
The short version
(futile attempt to hit a cat scrambling out at full speed)
That’s right, you better stay outside where I can’t get you!
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Alle Menschen Werden Lunchen
After a miserably wet month of August, the weather gods have come to realise that it’s not yet autumn after all. The last couple of days have been quite nice, if not to say hot. So lunch in the park it is then!
As I’ve explained before, there’s a strict picking order for the park benches. There are many of those, but not all of them are in the shade and some of them look like a flight of B-52’s dropped bird shit on them. But yesterday I discovered there’s another weird thing about the park. You see, it is situated on the border between the European district, where you can find the European Commission, the European Parliament and hundreds of related office buildings. On the other side of the park, where my office is located, there is a district with ordinary people including lots of immigrants from northern Africa.
The members of the European aristocracy are easily recognisable by their suits or business outfits. They buy their lunches in one of the fancy food shops and restaurants in the shadow of the EU Commission building, the Berliamont, where prices are ridiculously high and food is not that good but served by waiters with a lot of attitude imported from all corners of the Union. The Eurocrats tend to keep to their side of the park.
We, the commoners, make our own lunches that we unravel from their plastic wrap or aluminium foil. Or we buy our lunches in one of the cheap diners down the street. At our side of the park, you will mostly find pita bars, fry shops (our equivalent of the fish and chips barracks) and the occasional boulanger. We too keep to our side of the park. We hang on the benches instead of sitting upright. We play cards instead of quickly reading through a dossier. We play with dogs instead of thinking up regulation to standardise the production of dog pooh in the Union.
You can see here in practice how the Eurocrats are drifting away from the ordinary folk. Maybe we should try to write a European constitution right here in this park.
Thursday, September 14, 2006
We had a fight the other day, the first time we (read: I) shouted at each other (read: her). Some member of the diet mafia had published a study on the feeding habits of the Belgians. According to this study, only one in ten Belgians has a healthy diet. Three out of ten people are overweight. And four out of ten people go more than four times a month to a fast-food restaurant. ‘Eating healthy’ was defined here as eating fruit and veggies with every meal every day. Show me a person who’s doing that and I’ll show you a grey skinned vegetarian guzzling down pills to make up for the vitamin deficiency.
‘You see!’, said she-who-has-to-measure-her-waist-in-millimetres. ‘You really should loose weight.’
According to her, I’m a fat bloke. To put this into perspective, I’m 1.87 m. tall and I weigh 82 kilos. So I’m clearly not fat, although of course a 34-year old office worker doesn’t have the streamlined body of a 21 year old gold medal winner.
My wife however suffers from the delusion that many married women have, thinking that they can kneed their husband in any shape and form they desire, not to mention his social life, his hobbies, his drinking behaviour and so on. So she had been teasing my about my ever-so-slightly flabby waist for the last couple of weeks, making remarks every time I drank a soda and so on.
So there was some shouting and an attempt to slam a harmonica door, which is very difficult. Since this was our first real fight I was hoping for some wiedergutmachungssex, but now she’s feeling ill.
I tell you, if my mood gets any worse, I’ll start biting people.
Monday, September 11, 2006
Last Sunday I was doing heavy duty, wielding my angle-grinder with flair and force in the bedroom. I was cutting grooves in the wall to put the new electrical wiring, since I discovered that the old wires are falling apart. Not a good thing with 230 V running through. After making the necessary cuts in the wall, I could then start chiselling the plaster, cement and bricks away. Of course, I meticulously planned everything ahead, making plan on the computer and then drawing everything on the walls. However, our new home had a surprise for me. At one point I was happily hacking my way through the bricks, to make room for a light switch and two electric outlets. But suddenly, my chisel went right trough the wall.
Apparently, the wall wasn’t as thick between the bedroom and what’s to be the children’s room as it is between the bedroom and the hallway. To be precise, it is half as thick as expected.
I thought I’d better break this news in a careful way to my wife, who was ploughing our front garden in an attempt to remove the weeds.
‘Honey’, I called out of the window, ‘I got some good news. I made an opening between our bedroom and the babies’ so we can pass the bottles of milk.’
For some reason, she didn’t think this was good news. So I quickly covered up the damage.
No-one will notice.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
Rainforest Coming Trough!
‘I like this one best’
We were in a garden centre, choosing a plant for the friends we were going to visit that evening. I’ve hated garden centres for all my life and I hold a grudge against all the women – my mother and my wife – who have ever dragged me there. So my wife was choosing the plants, and I was trying to prevent my skull from exploding because of acute boredom and lethal doses of chagrin.
‘You must be joking’, I reply when I take a look at the plant she is pointing at. ‘Plant’ is an understatement for this monster. It’s a giant sequoia, a complete rain forest in a pot. It’s almost taller than I am.
‘We’re never going to get that thing in the car.’
‘We can lay it down. Or put it behind the driver’s seat.’
‘It’s too big. Won’t we squash the leaves if we lay it down?’ I tried feebly. But resistance is futile and moments later astonished shoppers saw a giant green mass move by on it’s own, my feet barely visible beneath it.
My wife insisted that it would be wrapped as a present. I try not to sink trough the ground while the shop ladies call in reinforcements. Together they storm the towering mass of leaves with all the wrapping material they have. They have to restart twice, because someone went missing during head count and they find employees stuck inside the plastic wrap. Finally we can leave. When I get on the street, the wind catches the wrapped plant and I almost fly off like a sailing ship in a tornado. While I struggle to regain control, I try not to notice the sniggering passers-by. My green-fingered-life-partner is oblivious to all the attention and walks in front of my with a happy smile.
As predicted, it didn’t fit in the car upright, even with our new spacey Peugeot Partner. So it goes down, next to the carpets that we got back from the cleaner’s earlier that morning.
That evening, we get out of the car. Unfortunately, we found a parking spot right next to a café with a fully laden terrace. Despite the humungous green mass, I still think they saw my red face glowing behind. A small group of people on a stroll even offer to help when I finally put the thing on the ground in front of our friends’ home.
Only consolation: the stunned look on our friend’s face when he opened the door. I guessed he must have realised immediately that their just wouldn’t be any more living space for them once they unwrap that monster.
Saturday, September 09, 2006
The Old Fart Went Dancing
I’m not feeling very well today. We went to a birthday party yesterday, a couple of friends of mine celebrated their 30th anniversary this year and they decided to organise a party together. Although I’m not used to drinking large quantities of alcohol as I was before as a single free unmarried bachelor without any strings attached, I did my best. I’d say I made a serious dent in their booze budget. After half an hour the people behind the bar knew already who I was and what I wanted: beer.
Not that I was incredibly pissed, but still pissed enough to make a fool of myself on the dance floor. I consider myself to be an excellent dancer, after 15 pints that is.
So this morning I woke up with a headache that could serve a dozen or so people. An overdose of aspirin helped my clear my head a bit, but I have to cut trenches in a brick wall this afternoon to lay electrical wiring in our bedroom so the headache may come galloping back. My stomach is a bit iffy too. But I had a heck of a time and it was sooooooo long ago since I had a decent night out. That’s worth a bit of pain!
Thursday, September 07, 2006
Almost 15 years ago, when I was sweating and cursing simultaneously over my statistics exam in my first year of university, I would never have guessed that I would one day get addicted to statistics. Not only have I been digging up my old textbooks in order to improve the hyper-sophisticated-all-bells-and-whistles-monitoring-organisational-development-programme that I’m writing, I even developed a strong need for them in my free time.
I’m talking about the statistics of my weblog, that little number on the
bottom of the sidebar. At least once a day, and often many times more, I
check my stats to see if anybody has any interest in my blog. At first
the numbers just crept up by two or three a day, barely a reason to keep
on writing you’d think. But there was so much
crap in me that just had to be dumped somewhere and the toilet wouldn’t
take it any more. Almost a year after launching my weblog, I’ve
assembled a steady flow of fans and I get between fifteen and twenty
hits per day. Not bad considering the fact that I haven’t told any
family or friends that I’m a blogger (bar one friend, and my wife of
Still, I must admit that I’m hugely jealous when I read about some people’s success. The Mighty Duck has just found his 1.000.000th victim. One million! At this rate I’ll need 400 years to get that number! And closer to home the excellent but strangely named weblog of Smiling Cobra has bitten 10.000 (Dutch speaking) readers in the leg, hissing at 130 people a day. And I felt so proud when I got 50 readers on my wedding day (thanks to Zoe and the Twat).
Maybe I should put more naked women on my blog. Mmmmh… must discuss this with the wife. Where’s my camera?
Monday, September 04, 2006
I’ve been banished to my little computer room, for the whole evening. It is said that men generally hog the remote control of the television – and the VCR, DVC, stereo, climate control, curtains and anchovies-filleting-machine. It is a sign of mutual respect, gender equality and emancipation in our wedding that it is my wife who takes full control over any remotes in this house. In other words, I’m a pushover.
Even worse is here taste for television programmes. She’s been very fond of soap operas lately. I have always been very allergic to soap operas. Obviously, she has kept this a secret until after the wedding. Oh, if only I’d known!
I’ve been tricked, and I demand a full refund!
Sunday, September 03, 2006
Despite the title of this post, I didn’t become a gay cow herder overnight. Although I must confess that I do own a cowboy hat – which suits me very well I am told – and as you know I do mount a wild bucking animal once in a while. I was talking about a horse of course.
No, I was referring to the mountain of debris that I hauled down the stairs and into the garden this weekend. On Saturday we went to the container park twice with a full car load of rubbish that I ripped out of the dining-room-that-we-won’t-be-using-to-dine and the master bedroom. And on Sunday I tore out the rest of the bedroom ceiling, shovelled everything into a big plastic box and carried I don’t know how many boxloads into the garden. So next week we can shovel it all in boxes again and bring to carloads to the container park for recycling. We’re only allowed to bring two cubic metres per week, that’s why we have to do it in phases. Otherwise we’d have to rent a container and that’s WAY over budget now.
So hence the broken back, because of the mountain of debris. Tomorrow I will be feeling extremely sorry for myself. To make things worse, the seats in most Belgian trains have cushions that are stuffed with granite. So I would appreciate it if you could all help me feel sorry for myself.