Today, 21 July, is the Belgian National Holiday.
It commemorates the first royal decree promulgated by Baudoin I in 1439 stipulating that every household must possess an electric waffle iron. Or something. Belgium is a fictional country anyway and noone knows what we are celebrating. The day is marked by King Albert ceremonially switching the country off. It is switched back on again on 1 September, or whenever thereafter someone notices its absence from the international stage. As of today, the country is officially closed for business and for a period of six weeks noone is obliged to be Prime Minister, which comes as a great relief since we have all taken at least two turns since the last National Holiday. Anyone accidentally still resident in Belgium during its 'off' period is deported to Knokke La Zoute and required to become an échangiste or have a facelift. Queen Fabiola dyes her hair red, black and yellow too.
[Editor's Note: Queen Fabiola, due to her gigantic hair and impeccable grooming is an international gay icon. Uh, in Belgium and with my mother's first husband and his partner, who view her with a reverence only otherwise reserved for Princess Margaret ("Margaret Rose" as they call her, very properly). ]
Here in the Waffledome we celebrate the 21st July by eating a Happy Meal on the condom and broken glass strewed verge of our local dual carriageway. The dog vomits, overcome by heat exhaustion. We visit a brocante, a dialect term meaning "heap of broken shit displayed on a blanket by a dissolute bunch of corpulent gentlemen in a string vests sitting on folding chairs cracking open their fifteenth can of Jupiler at 10am". The spawn agonise for hours over which heap of broken plastic to buy at outrageously inflated prices. I sit with the increasingly despairing dog under a tree handing out money with only token protest. Then we go home. I ceremonially park at a forty five degree angle to the pavement, in accordance with national custom and we watch the ceremonial Japanese shitty cartoons.
After a period of fighting between the children that follows a time-honoured ritual observed by generations of Belgians, in my rôle as the most Belgian (also referred to as "only") adult present in the house, I perform the sacred "child bollocking shout up the stairs" , then place both children in bed whilst singing La Brabançonne, replacing every second word with 'fuck'. The evening continues in traditional fashion with Fingers spilling a glass of water all over his bedclothes, commemorating the great Ghent flood of 1687.
Later this evening I look forward to drinking a traditional spirit brewed from the outer leaves of chicory known locally as 'Gordons' whilst watching the heavens piss all over the annual firework display.
Happy Belgian National Day!