I am on a blissfully, bizarrely empty 92 tram. The yellow orb is making a rare appearance in the sky so I decide to look out of the window rather than read my book. At the Sablon a man gets on and drops his packet of tissues at my feet. I move my legs out of the way so he can pick them up. As he thanks me, we make eye contact and smile at each other. He is about my age, and reminds me a little of Prog Rock, very gentle looking with gingery hair.
I will transcribe and translate our conversation exactly, because it is so very Belgian.
Ginger Man: you look distraite (preoccupied).
E: No, I'm just enjoying the sunshine; I thought I would try and look out of the window rather than reading my book for once.
Ginger Man: Yes, it is a beautiful day, I want to look out of the window too.
Ginger Man: those orange rabbits are very ugly.
Me: You think? I don't mind them.
Ginger: Yes, they are so industrial looking. We are destroying nature, and replacing it with plastic effigies of animals.
Me: I think they are agreeably surreal. Very appropriate for Belgium, a bit like the giant blue brain.
Ginger: What? The giant blue brain?
Me: You do not know the giant blue brain?
Ginger: I haven't been taking this tram for long.
Me: There was a giant blue brain above the museums, but now it has gone.
Ginger: The rabbits are better than the cows, I suppose.
Me: You think?
Ginger: I have a problem with cows. They are so .. industrial.
Me: You find cows industrial? Interesting.
Ginger: There are dairy products EVERYWHERE. Everything has milk in. You cannot find food without dairy produce. Cows are a symbol of our industrial society.
Me: An interesting perspective. So the rabbits are better? Less 'industrial'? We don't exploit them so intensively?
Ginger: At least we don't milk rabbits.
Me: Milking rabbits would be very difficult (then I mime milking a rabbit. Ginger nods seriously).
Ginger: I love nature.
E: I don't. It is the fault of my parents.
E: They made me go to la campagne all the time.
Ginger: I campaign for the preservation of green spaces. I make the children do paintings and draw on carrots (I swear he said this).
E: There is no hope for me, but I have a weepette who obliges me to go into the green spaces sometimes.
Ginger: Ah! I have a Shitzu.
E: The small things with lots of hair?
Ginger: Yes. She makes me walk a lot. Even in the rain.
E: The weepette does not like the rain. The weepette is not very courageux.
Ginger: What would your book have been if you were reading?
E: (getting out and holding up Revolutionary Road and The Good Thief's Guide to Amsterdam): this one is depressing, and this one is just light and not very sérieux).
G: Ah, you read in anglais.
E: I am anglaise, it is no achievement.
Ginger (holding out his hand) My name is Pierre Paul.
E: (shaking it) Emma.
Ginger: Like Emma Bovary. Though that is not a very felicitous comparison.
E: No, she is not an ideal model. I am named after another literary Emma, from Emma by Jane Austen.
Ginger: It is an English name?
E: Yes. I was luckier than my sister. She does not like her name.
E: Yes, she is called [Space Cadette].
Ginger: But [Space Cadette] is nice?
E: She does not think it suits her.
Ginger: Pierre Paul is not a good name. People forget and get confused and call me Jean Pierre. We should be able to change names as we change and get older. Our names are just like a reference code, like a bar code in a shop, to label us.
E: Emma is fine. It is simple.
Ginger: I would not say 'simple'.
E: This is my stop. Bonne Soirée!
Ginger: Bonne Soirée.
So? Your verdict?