"La laideur a ceci de supérieur a la beauté: c'est qu'elle ne disparait pas avec le temps"*
Well, that was actually, properly amazing.
I have finally - finally! - been on my Charleroi Urban Safari. Charleroi - voted ugliest town in the world (by the Dutch. Why do they get to choose?). I can't quite gather my thoughts at the moment. I'm exhausted from scrambling through gaps in fences, through holes in walls, up slagheaps, along ghost metro rails.
"Olympic swimming pool - 2cms too short".
I need to lie in a darkened room for a few hours to remember it all.
If you are ever in Belgium (unlikely) and feeling adventurous (possible), I really can't advise you too strongly to go and do this. You probably won't believe me, but it really has to be experienced to be believed and Nicolas, a gangly, lunatic Jesus figure in a white transit van, is a wickedly funny, slightly deranged, touching guide. This was AS GOOD AS MEXICAN WRESTLING. I wouldn't say that lightly, believe me. A lot funny, quite a bit tragic, hysterical and sobering all at once. Look:
There were kids barely older than mine playing in this place. Sparky, funny kids who followed Nicolas around asking him questions and showing him their dens. In the middle of the most chilling industrial wasteland. Brrrr. Goosepimples.
*"Ugliness has one advantage over beauty - it isn't diminished by the passage of time". At one point a canny and very hirsute hobo in this extraordinary place quoted this from Gainsbourg (you can't spend much time in the company of French speakers, especially ones of an artistic bent, before this happens).