I have my standard issue Friday night gloom on. Apologies for late and lacklustre posting.
The CFO and I met for lunch today. Yes, we are civilised people and sometimes do this kind of thing. I am not going to pretend it isn't without slight weirdness, but we do it anyway. I think we still win the Excellent Separation Award (suggestions who could sponsor such an award?). Aaaanyway, that's not what I meant to talk about at all.
We went for pho. Vietnamese soupy noodles. In Belgium, however, it transpires that when you go for pho the menu also offers: "cornet de frites €2,95, sauce aux choix". Already, this is both odd and delightful.
It is a mark of how Belgian we have both become that we looked at this and went "tiens, why not, un cornet de frites". Chips. With soup noodles. It seemed entirely normal.
I waved a frite at him (not using a chopstick. That would be properly weird). "Look at us! We've gone native!". He blanched. There is nothing more alarming for a Frenchman than to hear he is becoming Belgian. I reminded him that he had just used the expression "il fait caillant", which is Belgian for 'it's cold', but totally, unacceptably, weird in French French.
1. Always having a handy sachet of endive in the fridge.
Check. They last for ages and are the lowest impact vegetable you can imagine to prepare or eat. After the first 700 you barely notice the bitterness any more. I have reached the point where I feel a little uncomfortable if there aren't four or five plump white heads of witloof in my crisper drawer.
2. Saying "s'il vous plaît" when you give someone something.
I'm teetering on the cusp of doing it this automatically. It makes you sound a bit simple unless you are authentically Belgian. To be stamped out, ruthlessly. I don't say "je ne sais pas" when I mean "je ne peux pas" yet, but it's only a matter of time.
3. Not being alarmed when people repeatedly engage you in conversation when you are, for instance, waiting an hour and a half for a bus pass in a subterrranean den of public transport sadists at the Gare du Midi. (see also: knowing to set aside an hour and a half to obtain a bus pass)
I think I have reached the point where I am just as often the one starting the conversation as being engaged. Worrying. This could get me killed, or locked away, in London. I smile, like a day release patient, at the girls on the tills in Boots and try to chat to them about vitamins. They look at me with ill-disguised terror.
4. Viewing raw mince as an appropriate sandwich filling
Absolutely. I wouldn't choose it myself, but this abomination now seems entirely normal and acceptable. Oh, I thought looking over at the man on the next table at lunch, you are having Américain on toast for your lunch. Whatever. Previously I would have thought something more along the lines of "Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeugh, what the FUCK is that?"
I don't like them. But I accept them as part of my life. My children eat revolting mashed up speculoos paste on their pancakes, toast, even crumpets, dammit. I am resigned to buying jars of the stuff. It is their preferred ice cream flavour. A friend noted recently that 'speculoos' sounds like a gynaecological instrument. I had not even thought of this. Not once.
Nearly five years in, I suppose this is all normal. But I still find it faintly alarming. I mean, I am very happy here, but I'm going to Paris next weekend. What if I say "nonante" by mistake? Social death!