Monday, 24 November 2008

Belgium explained - with toys!

Hey, you know what time it is, internet ? It's TOY BELGIUM time! Pochyemu, I hope you are taking notes.

Look closely at the following scene.

This, internet, is Belgium.


In the South, la Wallonie, the French speaking region, represented by a cock. I mean, in, like, heraldic terms. I don't actually know any Walloon politicians by name, and even if I did I wouldn't be so rude. Not unless they really, really deserved it.

I didn't have a cock, so it got a turkey, but personally I think the resemblance is impressive.

In the North, Flanders, the Dutch speaking region, represented in heraldry by the black lion. A very very small black lion according to my stolen image. There will be fighting about the relative size of stolen heraldic images if this post ever reaches the provinces, I tell you.

I got a bit confused and thought it was a dragon. And yellow. Not that I actually had a yellow dragon, so I went for a yellow stegosaurus. Eh, what's the difference. It looks good.

The yellow stegosaurus of Flanders, rampant!

Next, if you refer back to our Belgium tray, you will note a small interloper on the far right hand side. This is the German speaking region of Belgium, represented by this Pokémon figurine. Mrs Kennedy might know what it's called. She's President Obama's special advisor on Pokémon, you know.

We need not concern ourselves unduly with the German bit, since it basically keeps out of trouble and is the size of a medium family saloon car. So I've given it a saucisson to keep it happy.

Ok? Ok.

Back to the serious bit.
Historically speaking the Walloons (turkeys) were In Charge of Belgium. This is why they get to have the impressive facial hair and armour. They spent History, both before and after King Leopold created Belgium out of one of his ribs and some waffle dough in 1830, crushing the faces of the Flemish poor into the soil, eating Flemish babies for breakfast and generally poncing around. The Belgian aristocracy is all Walloon and the Belgian gentry have ridiculous medieval names like Godefroid, wear tweed underpants and think it is still thirteen hundred. There are normal Walloons but we need not concern ourselves unduly with them, since as we know, history is written by men in tweed underpants.

The Walloons, however, had their comeuppance in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, due to deciding that industry was fearfully common and non-U and they would have nothing to do with it. Consequently, they all now live in a sort of marshy wasteland filled with cows and are very poor and unemployed.

"Baudoin, it's your turn to spread the slurry!"
"No Godefroid, I distinctly remember it's your turn. I am busy tending to Fabiola and Paquerette. Do you have a couple of Euros you could lend me for new underpants?"

In contrast, Flanders is the preserve of honest sons of toil. They spent History labouring in the waffle mines and building larger and larger breweries, and now get to enjoy the fruits of their labours; Flanders is RICH. Not only is it rich in monetary and resource terms, it is also rich linguistically, with words and phrases like 'snotvallen', 'hevige snurken', 'witloof' 'schildpad' 'slagroom' and 'krulekes'.
Oh, they get to run the government too. Whether this is an advantage remains a moot point.
Flanders considers itself to be paying to keep the feckless Walloons in tweed underpants and out of trouble.

Flanders: industry, money and Good Words.

So far, so clear. But wait! What is that head of endive doing? And who are the strange figures that surround it?

The endive, my friends, is Brussels.

Brussels is conveniently situated in the middle of Belgium, allowing the turkey and the stegosaurus both to claim it is theirs. The stegosaurus frankly has a better claim geographically, but the turkey has the upper hand linguistically, since everyone speaks French (badly) in Brussels and only some people speak Dutch.

"Get orf my land you oik!"
"No, you"

This might be awkward. However, help is at hand in the form of this figure:

Can you guess who the Euro wielding diver is? Yes! It's the European Union! Well DONE Pochyemu. The giant swilling pots of cash provided by the the European institutions have, for some time, kept the stegosaurus and the turkey playing nicely, if in parallel rather than actually together.
Comme ceci:

Hoorah for Eurotedium saving the day!
Unfortunately, the stegosaurus has in recent years decided to get more and more officious about the correct name for a head of endive and refuses to let any turkeys live anywhere ruled by the stegosaurus unless they learn to say 'witloof'. The turkeys refuse. They are standing firm for 'chicon'. This has caused the breakdown of pretty much all government in Belgium. Interestingly, noone has actually noticed the difference.

Onoes! The giant lizard of intolerance and bigotry is threatening to gobble them both up! What will happen?

I don't know. Neither does Belgium. But tune in for another episode of Belgium - with Toys! soon..


Eden Kennedy Onassis said...

Experts are conferring to discover the exact identity of the Pokemon pictured in your post. Early reports leaked to the press exhibit dismay at its resemblance to "Stitch." More as events unfold.

Red Shoes said...


More, more!!

Pochyemu said...


I *LOVE* you. You and your willingness to assist me in dissertation writing!

I'm not sure what the examination board will say when I insert these photos as plates into my work, but my guess is they'll give me a first and then some kind of medal of achievement and then some prize money. Which I will use to visit you and give you suuuccchhh a kiss for thinking of me early in the morning and putting in all that effort.

And then we'll hold hands and go shopping and feed each other waffles with chocolate sauce.


Also! How can Walloons take themselves seriously when they're called Walloons??

Mr Farty said...

King Leopard? Oh. Sorry. As you were.

Completely Alienne said...

That was much more interesting than the article about the state of Belgium in the Guardian a few weeks ago.

Pochyemu, you will be locked up if you put this in your dissertation. Do not be led astray, however appealing the photos may be. Keep searching for broccoli.

I think flemish is much better than french - the words are truly awe-inspiring, any language that makes you laugh has to be good. The walloons will have to give in, apart from having such a silly name they won't be allowed to form a new country, how else will they afford to keep themselves in tweed underpants?

mountainear said...

Good. Very good. Could you use similar tactics to explain the US tomorrow?

Léonie said...

I love that the hand of God is supporting the European Union. I mean, I assume it's the hand of God, yes?

Potty Mummy said...

That was just fabulous. I mean. Fab-u-lous. One thing though - you left out the Dutch influence. Perhaps this could be portrayed by a Bitterbollen/herring encroaching from the North East?

G said...

I have been enlightened - I had always wondered what endives were for. I thank you.

ptooie said...

I feel like I understand so much more now! Thank you for the most well presented national history lesson I've ever had!

Mickle in NZ said...

This is just BRILLIANT.

Tweed underpants - uncomfortable to even think of!

Kate said...

that was ace.

i keep thinking about emailing you to tell you where in france i will be and which boots i ordered and all these other silly things (photos of knitted diapers and paper facial hair on 3 year olds and such) but then i get stricken with a case of sperpr* and don't.

* sperpr is today's word verification. its definition is simultaneously being shy and being busy with stupid shit and feeling lazy. when i get a bad case of sperpr i have tons to do and get nothing done and am too shy to tell anyone at all about it so that they can help me or shake me out of it. it can last for months and be accompanied by a sore throat and nausea.

Mickle in NZ said...

Kate - "scron" it all

word veri just offered this to me

Léonie said...

Kate I want to know whether you bought those boots. Is that weird?

Jaywalker said...

Thank you Special Advisor Kennedy. We await your next bulletin.

There will be more Red Shoes when I repair the damage to my relationship caused by spending the evening with playmobil figures.

Pochyemu - that will totally happen. Yes. They will encourage you to move on to a PhD with tears in their eyes.

Mr F - that's "luipaard" to you.

CA - your analysis is inspired.

Mountainear - no, but I encourage anyone else to take up the model and run with it.

Léonie - that, or perhaps the spirit of the people of Europe?

PM - Damn, I had a dancing St Niklaas I wanted to use and forgot. Next time.

G and Ptooie - the pleasure is all mine

Mickle - but so warm!

Kate - I emailed you. So there. And I want to know about the boots too.

Juci said...

This was spot on AND hilarious. Thank you.
Don't you find that because the Walloons and the Flemish hate each other with such fervor there is less hatred left for immigrants, expats and the like? This is my theory, although it might be 'thenous' as WV suggests.

Z said...

I'd support the Flemish viewpoint, except when I drove off the ferry to fetch my daughter's possessions home from Brussels (she lived there for a year) the road signs were in nothing but Flemish and I couldn't understand them and nearly embarrassed myself.

I vote for chicory.

katyboo1 said...

So, chicory and endive the same yes? You never see them together in the same photograph.

Also, is it only me that thinks that Playmobil people with no hat/hair look weirdly lobotomized and evil?

Plus. Shame on me. I thought the Walloons were the French speakers. You have learned me things.


Jaywalker said...

Katyboo - They are! You were obviously distracted by their armour or something. It's the vacant smiles that make them evil. Their empty skulls are a convenient drinking vessel for teeny tiny vodka shots.

Z - the tortoises vote for chicory too.

Juci - why thank you! You might be right. Hence the phenomenon of it being better to speak English than French in Flanders.

kelly said...

Thank you! Only now have I realized the appalling gaps in the American educational model ... I don't think we HAD a chapter on Belgium.

Did we?

Now I just need to figure out what endive is....

Joy said...

Thanks! Now I understand - mostly.

My word verification "arryar" is piratey.

Anxious said...

Posts like this are the reason I can never entirely leave Blogland behind...

(you are great)

Anne said...

A significant element which you have overlooked in your analysis is the role of the English language in Brussels. As you will be aware its massacre (ever dined in the self?) has brought some peace to a linguistically divided city. I feel that this field offers some further scope for your genius.

Fat Controller said...

And who is in charge of Belgium this week?

BarbaraCA said...

I feel so smart! If everything were explained this way, I would have done so much better in school. Can you please do it again? Try explaining the schism from whence came the Church of England, with Legos, a roll of gaffer's tape and a bit of orange rind.

Home Office Mum said...

You know, the politics in Belgium has never ever crossed my mind. Now I am deeply enthralled. What exactly is Snotvallen? Does it require a Kleenex?

Dawn in NL said...

Great history lesson.

The 'taalgrens' (language border or divide) in Belgium is the wierdest thing. On a cycling holiday using a Dutch language map, I got a bit confused when Luik disappeared off the road signs. On one side of the 'grens' the signs have the flemish name and on the other wallonian names and never both.
If you don't know the 'other' name of the place you are going (Liege in this case) you are screwed frankly. I dont think you can even get bilingual maps.

Jaywalker said...

Joy, Kelly - I am so glad to be of service. It is my mission to help.

Anx - hello again! So nice to see your worried little logo thingy! How are you.

FC - Me, obviously. We each take it in turns on our birthdays.

Anne - hmm. I will ponder how to incorporate English. Any suggestions?

BarbaraCA - I think I may have found my métier. I knew the history degree had to be good for something.

Home Office Mum - yes! It does! What a fabulously literal language, no?

Dawn in NL - what would be the fun of bilingual maps? The rural youth wouldn't be able to get their kicks misdirecting lost travellers, and would have to sniff glue instead.

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