Friday, May 29, 2009


Early the other morning I noticed that someone had left a new comment on my last post about a tiresome relative named Chlamydia Burana. The comment, from an unknown reader named mnemosynewrites (yes, exactly, mne-mne-mowhat?), read:
"Chanced upon your blog over at Kanlaon and have been a frequent reader since. As a result, I nominated you for a "Kreative Blogger Award", hope you don't mind :)"
Okay folks, it was early in the morning, and because most of you don't know me personally - count yourselves lucky, really - my brain dwells South of Murky in the early morning, and does not resemble anything more evolved than pond life until at least 10 a.m. And definitely not before industrial-strength caffeine has been poured down it.

Neither can I remember where I've parked my reading glasses at that hour, so I tend to wander aimlessly through cyberspace with left hand cupped over left eye to help me focus. As the one-eyed halfwit reading that comment, I understood it to mean that Kanlaon, an excellent blog by a published writer friend in California, had won some award. I made a note to look up the definition of that mnemo-word. I love words, and if there's a new one I haven't met, I'll rush over to shake its hand.

Forward to late morning. Eyes and brain finally operational, I read the comment again and gagged on my toast. A total stranger named Mnemosyne Writes had just informed me that she had nominated me and 6 others for a Kreativ Blogger Award. Moi? Good God! I couldn't imagine what possessed her to do that, but hey, I wasn't about to argue. Without getting all Kate Winslet-y about it, THANK YOU, kind Menemosyne person, for this honor and the rather yummy ego massage that accompanied it. It's come as quite a shock to someone who's still not sure where this young blog is headed, and who continues to hear scary Blighter's Rock rumblings in her head each time she starts a new post.

According to the rules of this award, I have to list 7 things I love. I have to pick 7 other blogs that I think should be awarded the same honor, and inform those bloggers. I also have to link back to the person (above) who graciously nominated me. Without further ado:

Seven Things I Love, and preferrably in large quantities, please:
  • the ancient Japanese healing art of Jin Shin Jyutsu
  • laughter
  • food/eating/cooking
  • a good night's sleep
  • books
  • music
  • beautiful things made by hand, like my Aran jumpers from a 91-year-old knitter in Inis Mór, the Aran Islands, Ireland

Seven Blogs I Enjoy:

Belgian Waffle - Eurodrone, unfit mother, slattern, this woman has life in Belgium completely sussed. One recent post almost gave me a seizure. I suspect that a soft heart beats underneath Jaywalker's cheeky madcap exterior.

Posit Ennui - Meet Dr. Y.U. Thropplenoggin, bosh-monger, diabolical wit, master of verbal tomfoolery. His pithycisms also make Twitter a chortlesome place for me to roam. I've learned from messy experience not to have any coffee in my mouth when reading tweets by @thropplenoggin.

This Is Reverb - Ryan Detzel, a young father in Cincinnati, is an ace cook and photographer, and possesses some rather impressive tattoos. He's also a pastor whose message gets me in the gut. No mean feat, seeing as I've always been averse to any form of organized religion. Thankfully, this has never stopped me from walking my own spiritual path where I encounter gems like him.

Self-Help Holds with Jin Shin Jyutsu - Astrid, an experienced Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner living in Spain shares her knowledge and experience of the ancient healing art that has become my life's passion too. Read her if you want to know how to stop a migraine or heal a wound quickly without pharmaceuticals or plasters. I promise you this stuff works.

Market Manila - Marketman cooks, entertains, travels, and occasionally rants with great style. According to Anthony Bourdain, he also roasts "the best pig in the world." I dream of eating at his table one day, and so do all his readers. Poor man, he will need a very, very long table.

Borealkraut - Alaska-based Borealkraut is a naturalist, teacher, quilter, hiker, cook, mother, blogger who embodies good, sane womanhood to me - something I aspire to, but regularly fall short of. Her prepositions don't dangle either. She has moose in her garden, I have slugs. Whoever said life was fair? She also has a second blog dedicated to cooking, called Borealkitchen.

golfpunkgirl and benbenbenbenben are newlyweds Liana and Ben Joyce in real life. These are their Flickr pages; they blog with photographs rather than words. They shoot only analog film and oh, what sumptuous, transcendent images they create!


N.B. A growing list of blogs I visit is on the right hand column of this page. Every single one is worth a detour. Special thanks to my blogging 'aunties' The Lizard Meanders, True Love, Six Kids, One Old House, and Kanlaon for their inspiration and encouragement.

Friday, May 22, 2009


I love brocantes!

In Belgium, a brocante is a cross between a flea market and a car boot sale. The Flemish call them rommelmarkts. In my area, they usually take place in villages, beginning in the spring until the end of summer. People lay out their stuff on tarpaulins on the street. They're a good way for folk to clear out the domestic detritus they've uncovered while spring cleaning. Fortunately or unfortunately, they're also a good way to pick up more "finds" - or junk - depending on whose point of view it is.

When the going gets tough, the broke go brocanting. Someone's junk is someone else's treasure. Here are some treasures I picked up recently.

From the Noduwez brocante (above) 2 weeks ago: one bundle of organic rhubarb, one bunch of organic parsley, two young cherry tomato plants, a dozen antique coins from Denmark and Belgium and one antique 2 kilo cast iron weight. Total spent: €5.

And this was my haul from Thursday's brocante in Jandrain: a dozen different antique cast iron weights (of varying weights: 2-kilos, 1-kilo, 500-grams, 200-grams, 100-grams, 50-grams), one Japanese serving plate, 5 French blue-and-white dessert plates with peony design from the 1930s, one ceramic planter with a Chinese garden scene, and 11 small glass bowls from the 1930s, which will be perfect for ice cream or jelly. Total spent: €8.30.

Why do I have a thing for cast iron weights? I have no idea, but I can never resist them. Heck, I'm not sure why I have a thing for most of the things I buy at brocantes. I bought my first one, a 1-kilo weight, a few years ago to use as a doorstop. I am now the proud owner of over 60 cast iron weights, and each time I bring more home Skunk rolls his eyes upward and sighs heavily.

Too bad for him.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Snark Returns: Introducing Chlamydia Burana (warning: expletives undeleted)

First-time visitors to Megatonlove could be forgiven for thinking this is a gardening blog. It isn't. Only, with spring at full gallop, there's so much beauty outside that it would be churlish not to share some of its beauty with you. Mother's Day morning brought glorious sunshine, love notes and quirky hand-made presents from Legs & Noodle, and the discovery that the Papaver orientalis had started to open. I look forward to these Oriental poppies all winter long. They are the brazen hussies of the garden, their papery scarlet-orange skirts calling to mind the pleated costumes of Issey Miyake. They burst open with devil-may-care abandon, their flower heads unnaturally heavy for their stems, the ruffles and ridges of their mysterious centers coated in inky purple dust. In a few days they're gone, leaving large seed pods in their wake, victorious fists clenched to salute such fleeting splendor. As I photographed them in the early morning sun, I was filled with gladness for the mother that sustains us all. Mother Earth.

I compiled my new flower photos into an album and posted them on Facebook. Everything was grand until yesterday when I noticed that someone on my friends list had posted my photo album onto her Facebook Wall. Without my permission! It irritated me. Especially because this same person had committed the same transgression only the week before with one of my other photo albums. She'd blithely helped herself to my family pictures and posted them on her Wall without as much as a by-your-leave. I wrote her this message:

I would appreciate it if you would kindly take my album "Life in Belgium" off your FB wall as soon as possible. My family's privacy is very important to me and I would rather that my photo albums be visible only to people on my friends list. I hope you understand.

To give her credit, she complied promptly. She explained she only wanted to share them with her sister and friends - none of whom I know, by the way. I enjoy sharing my photographs with my family and friends on Facebook. It's a great way for me to stay in touch because I live so far away from my tribe. However, I remain extremely cautious about sharing my personal details on the web, and I've gone to certain lengths to protect the identities of my loved ones on this blog.

Being a thoughtful person, I'd like to respect my offender's anonymity, so I'll call her Chlamydia Burana. (Take a bow, Chlamydia, dear. This may be your moment of fame.) Chlamydia Burana is close enough to her real name, and it accurately defines someone "with an ability to establish long-term associations with host cells." Gee, thanks, Wikipedia, that scares the shit out of me. An easily-transmitted infection, terrific. Some of my Facebook friends reading this may know who I'm talking about because Chlamydia has wormed her way into their friends lists as well. When I was new to Facebook last year, Chlamydia sent me a friend request. She claimed to be my mother's cousin and, fool that I was, I accepted. I had never met her in person, she lives a safe distance away in Vafancouver, and I had no intention of ever interacting with her. I did wonder at the time why, if she was as close to my mother as she claimed to be, Mama had never mentioned Chlamydia to us while she was alive. Dear Chlammy lost no time friending more family members, and was soon busy busy busy leaving her syrupy pawprints everywhere. Secretly I began to regard her as the Dolores Umbridge of Facebook. The first comment she ever left me, on a photo album titled "What's Cooking in Megatonlove's Kitchen" annoyed me, and I knew it was more than just her appalling punctuation:

hi M, Chlamydia here, 2nd cousin of your very beautiful mommy, Daisy. your aunt P is my contemporary and i am more than happy to have found her on B's album. also, it would be much appreciated if you could post a family photo with your mommy and dad, when you can. apparently, you inherited your mom's cooking prowess. i love all of your creations but, as a vegetarian,this is my favorite! your pup eats better than i do...home cooking!! thanks for your friendship and, like what i wrote to your sister-in-law, J, i am so blessed and humbled to have touched base with family members of my most adored cousin. take care and much love...

Not an auspicious start, but knowing how prickly and saccharine-intolerant I am on a good day, I tried to ignore it and dismissed her as Gushy. Give me Cranky, give me Snooty, give me Bossy or Smelly or any of the other 27 dwarves. Just. Don't. Give. Me. Gushy. Because I'll puke all over her. And Chlamydia was world class Gushy. Upper case SMARMY too.

And so Chlamydia simpered on:

Beautiful children you have.

Legs looks like Little Daisy...

Each time she left a comment, my Bullshit Meter would ricochet. Yesterday, when I saw that she had filched another of my photo albums and posted it on her Wall, after already having been cautioned once, it was a bit much. I sent her another message, more business-like this time:

Once again, Chlamydia, may I ask you to please not post any of my photos on your wall without asking me first? I really find this most intrusive and a complete disregard of my privacy. Although we might be related, I have never actually met you and I do not appreciate the liberties you are taking. You could at least have asked me first. It might be just pictures of my garden, but still. Kindly POST YOUR OWN STUFF on your wall. Thank you, etc.

To which she messaged back:

So sorry again, my niece...

My initial sigh of relief at her reply disintegrated into snorts of exasperation when I saw that my photos were still up on her wall. What the fuck, ya great galoot?! Pathetically, I checked her Wall every half hour. No change. By then, my knickers were dancing the proverbial twist.

This time, for variety, I brazenly wrote on her Wall:

Chlamydia, this is my THIRD and final request: will you PLEASE take MY photo album off your Wall? My photos are my property, and they are not yours to do with as you please. Surely this is not too much to ask? I would not dream of posting anyone's pictures on my wall without asking their permission first. Thanks.

Adrenalin provoked un derangement in me. I decided some extra spleen might not come amiss. Going for broke, I replied to her message:

I will not accept your apology until you take my photos off your wall. For god's sake, Chlamydia, I've had enough of your games. Do you ask permission from the other people whose stuff you put on your wall? Or do you think that because this is Facebook you can help yourself to whatever you want?

Silence. My blasted photos remained on her Wall. Was she suffering an attack of sudden illiteracy? Had her computer crashed? Or was she just being an utter fuckwit? All of the above? I gave it one last huzzah:

Chlamydia, I am now very angry that after asking you 3 times, you still haven't seen fit to remove my photos from your wall. What part of my request didn't you understand? I saw that you removed my comment, but my album is still there. And please don't patronize me by referring to me as "your niece" if you cannot respect my privacy on Facebook.

Nada. I had to admit defeat. I knew what my next step would have to be. Reader, I DELETED her.

Lessons learned, in no particular order:

  1. I can't seem to count beyond 3 when I'm angry.
  2. C'est la folie to ignore mon Bullshit Meter, parce que, mon dew, il est toujours spot-on.
  3. Facebook's Privacy settings are a JOKE. There is no way to remove the Share option from my photos to stop others from posting them to their profile. And not only that, even after deleting Chlamydia from my friends list, my photos remain on her wall. Well, Facebook, as far as I'm concerned, you are now officially Fuckbook.
  4. Some relatives can be downright shits. Bet y'all already knew that.
  5. It feels great to let go of snakes masquerading as friends .

Before I go, I want to leave you with an imaginary message I wrote but will of course never send to her. Unless she tracks me down and reads it here:

Dear Chlamydia, what'll you do now that I've dumped you? I know I was one of the most colorful characters on your Friends List, and you will miss my saucy posts. How dreary your life will be without me. Never mind. Every cloud has a silver lining. Now that Bernard Madoff faces spending the rest of his life in prison, there may be a vacancy for you at Weasels Sans Frontieres.

Imelda Staunton as Professor Dolores Umbridge in "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix"

N.B. Megatonlove wishes to thank a certain lizard for helping her find the right name.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Where Angels tread (and hoe and mulch)

I have seen larger and grander, but THIS is the garden that's captured my heart for eternity. A springtime ramble through it brings me as close to heaven as I will ever get on earth.

It is the domain of a mother and daughter I shall call Charlie's Angels. They are the most incredible and inspiring gardeners I have ever met, and I have met many good ones in my time. Angel Senior, the mum, is like a second mum to me and an honorary granny to Legs and Noodle. Angel Senior possesses an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things botanical and is a gifted painter and writer, and a marvelous cook to boot. She taught me all about making jams and chutneys, one of my favorite kitchen pastimes. Angel Junior, the daughter, is a renowned sculptor who works in wood and alabaster when she's not busy in other incarnations as a singer, print-maker, photographer and belly-dancer. The Angels are the closest we have to family in our area and we love them to bits.

Their garden is enormous and utterly lovely in all seasons, yes, even in the dead of winter when our garden - and everyone else's - resembles horticultural Hades. Except for arduous he-man jobs like chopping fallen trees into firewood, they do ALL the garden work themselves. Unlike me, they never complain of backaches and have no fear of slugs. This is what their place looks like at this time of year.

I brought a friend to see their garden last week. When people enter for the first time, their typical reaction is usually one of delighted surprise and, often, speechlessness. In the orchard, we were engulfed by giddy-making clouds of apple blossom. There are several dozen fruit trees - mainly old apple varieties, as well as cherries and plums. In the autumn, several hundred kilos of windfall apples are collected and brought somewhere to be pressed into apple juice. The Angels' apple juice is the finest, most delicious apple juice I've ever tasted.

The Angels allow a farmer in the village to keep some of his sheep in their orchard. The 3 ewes and 8 lambs currently in residence get free grazing and reciprocate by keeping the grass down in the orchard. This beneficial agreement creates endless bucolic scenes like the one above. Two local bee-keepers, one of them a druid, also keep a number of beehives in their orchard. The bees feast on the flowers, pollinate them and produce beautiful honey that the bee-keepers offer the Angels in lieu of rent. Everyone benefits. In seeking to live with interdependence and harmony we only need look at Nature's example. The Angels taught me that.

At the rear of the garden is a splendid old wood with mature oak, yew, ash, hazelnut, acacia and chestnut trees which provide cover for an ever-changing magic carpet of springtime flowers. No sooner has the mantle of snowdrops gone over than bands of crocuses and scillas emerge to replace it, only to make way for a blaze of daffodils, then narcissus, and finally culminating in a spectacular blanket of bluebells. This picture does not do justice to just how delightful the wood is, even if the bluebells were coming to an end at the time I took it. Legs and Noodle love building forts and playing make-believe games in this wood. They stay there for hours on end, their shouts, laughter and occasional bickering weaving in and out of the leaves.

A formal hedge separates the orchard from the rest of the garden. A 6-foot tall hornbeam hedge borders this long walkway. Until a few years ago, Angel Senior used to trim this hedge herself, and the sight of this petite woman in her mid-70s brandishing a hedge-trimmer atop a tall ladder would give me the heebie jeebies. I have neither courage nor stamina to take on scary jobs like that. It's what separates hardcore gardeners like them from ordinary ones like myself.

The potager or vegetable garden is mostly Angel Junior's domain. Have you ever seen vegetables more artfully grown? Most people who grow vegetables grow them in rows. Practical, but boring. Angel Junior mixes vegetables and flowers together. Her potager is a suite of rooms separated by 'walls' of raspberry canes, and miniature pear and peach trees on cordons. In about a month's time, a canopy of grapevines and clematis will begin to provide summer shade for the lettuces.

An espaliered crab apple tree in full flower stands guard over Swiss chard, wood strawberries and leeks in raised beds bordered by campanulas and forget-me-nots.

Honesty's vibrant magenta flowers are offset by acid green ornamental grass. The Angels' boundless artistry is present in every picture-perfect corner of their garden. Even their compost heap is pretty.

Lime green euphorbias hug one of several huge walnut trees in the garden. In the autumn, I become the happy beneficiary of walnuts from this tree. They go into all my cakes and their flavor simply cannot be matched by supermarket walnuts.

A magnificent magnolia sheds its petals on the lawn. The Angels love our children and spoil them rotten sometimes. Legs and Noodle have enjoyed Easter egg hunts in this garden since they were little.

They must search high and low to find several kilos worth of Belgian chocolate Easter eggs each year. They have become extremely blasé about going Easter egg hunting anywhere else. This year, I unilaterally (and very unwisely) decided that the children, now 13 and 10, had grown too old for Easter egg hunts. Oh my God, the fallout that ensued! At breakfast on Easter Sunday I was shot stony looks by Legs and Noodle who informed me in the strongest possible terms that they expect to continue this annual springtime ritual on Angel ground until they leave home. As a matter of fact, they refer to the Angels' garden as "their garden," which is ironic because they do not speak of our garden at home - yes, the one Skunk and I toil in - with as much proprietarial affection.

A garden like this is heaven for all forms of wildlife. The Angels, passionate bird lovers, have nesting boxes on almost all their large trees. This sheltered wall hosts a village of bird houses, some of which are recycled from vintage wooden boxes of Earl Gray tea.

More posts on this garden will follow, but for now, I must get back to the weeds in ours.

P.S. I've only just found out that if you click on any of these photos, they will come up larger and in greater detail.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"... lo que la primavera hace con los cerezos."

As with cooking, I came late to gardening. It wasn't until Skunk and I bought our crumbling old farmhouse in the Brabant Walloon countryside that I first experienced the myriad joys and aches of gardening. Had I known what back-breaking work it would entail I might never have taken it up. But I did. And I'm hooked.

I want to say something about gardening. Keeping a few houseplants or a few pots of herbs on a window sill does not make one a gardener. Walking around in a sun hat while sipping a large G&T and ordering a gardener around to do one's bidding is definitely not gardening either, although my fear and loathing of slugs and snails, the pain shooting up my backside and my despair at the disgraceful state of my hands make me wish I could indulge in such moneyed pastimes. (Gardening for pussies is what I call that, so let's not go there.) Having neither the fortune nor the forbearance to deal with hired help, the only way I know how to garden is to get down and dirty myself. Picture me thus: I'm in a manky old sweatshirt and denim salopette, up to my eyebrows in compost, arms criss-crossed in scratches and nettle rash; grass stains on my knees. Twenty-year-old leather gloves held together by stitching and equally ancient wellies caked in mud and cracked at the seams. Twigs and spider webs in my hair complete the Mrs Batty mien. Let's face it, Country Living will never ask me to model for them.

My gardening year began with the appearance of brave little snowdrops (above) in late winter, an indication that spring was inexorably inching its way toward us. With temperatures in our area falling to a record minus 25 Celsius (or minus 13 Fahrenheit) this winter, we feared that the bitterly cold weather might kill off most of our plants. We lost quite a lot of them, including some real treasures. Many that didn't perish from the cold were heavily damaged and will take several seasons to recover. Some plants that didn't mind the cold at all were the Helleborus niger, also known as the Christmas rose (below). They put in an appearance in late winter and are just going to seed as I write.

Spirits soar when the first of our cherry trees bursts into blossom. This is when I know that winter has finally turned the corner and longer, warmer days lie ahead. Whenever I look at cherry trees in springtime, the part of my brain where gratitude lives does a little Pavlovian pirouette and performs a mental recitation of Pablo Neruda's immortal line, "Quiero hacer contigo lo que la primavera hace con los cerezos" (I want to do with you what spring does with cherry trees). Apple trees are in bloom now too. Spring, pregnant with scent and the promise of flowers and summer, is without a doubt my favorite season in the gardening year - at least, for as long as I can ignore those returning gastropods of doom.

Our property abuts a neighbor's abandoned, overgrown lot on one side and a cow pasture on the other. While I love not having next door neighbors because I can play music as loudly as I want without anyone but Legs and Noodle complaining, it does create a lot of extra work because the weeds from both sides migrate to ours. It does get very grrr-making especially in the summer when we seem to spend all of our time at weed control. Weeds always win. Of course.

This is the woodland, oh okay, the wild part of our garden with a happy Clematis montana growing out of a beautiful antique porcelain toilet (to protect the roots) that I inherited from a friend who found it abandoned in a potato field.

The enormous billy goat who lives across the street has been casting lascivious glances at my gorgeous deep pink aquilegias. If that wretched beast ever escapes and wreaks havoc on my plants I promise you he will end up as goat curry. A recipe for Jamaican goat curry, all our dub and reggae CDs and my scariest cleaver are already on stand-by.

One of my favorite climbers is the Wisteria. This W. floribunda 'Macrobotrys' in the back garden has magnificent racemes reaching over 3 feet long with deeply scented pea-like purple flowers. I've been dropping hints to Skunk to build a strong tall structure for it to climb. One certainty of gardening is that as we cross off one thing on our endless horticultural To-Do list, two more come to take its place.

The wisteria sinensis in our small front garden (below) is so abundant it's become quite the village showgirl. A Clematis montana 'Reubens' grows through it and when it's at its peak we often see cars screeching to a halt in front of our house. Windows roll down and people gawk and take pictures with mobile phone cameras. I've had to stop gardening in pajamas in the morning since this started to happen. I mean, what if I end up in the papers in my pajamas? Unfortunately, this wisteria took a terrible wallop this winter and we had to cut it back hard, leaving almost no flowers for this year. It'll grow back eventually, but for now I'm cheating and posting a photo of what it looked like last year.

Because I ache so much from gardening until almost 9 p.m. yesterday, I declared today a rest day. Never did get the hang of moderation, and anyway what would be the point? Spring doesn't have a pause button. As I stare at my fingernails in dismay, daydream about a massage I will not get and check the weather forecast for tomorrow, I find a certain amount of comfort and a great deal of truth in this Chinese proverb:

If you want to be happy for a day, drink.
If you want to be happy for a year, marry.

If you want to be happy for a lifetime, plant a garden.