1. I protested
The Brussels President Garbage Fire protest was non-ambulatory. We all just stood outside the opera house while some drumming ladies did drumming and held some candles and shuffled around in a "down with this sort of thing" kind of way. However, the minute I arrived I started crying at the mere fact that people had turned up and were standing around together, making a stand, old hippies, students, children, middle aged woman, etc etc. People are mainly excellent. I'm holding onto that. Apparently we're doing it all again on Sunday (I might make a sign this time).
2. I attended two - two! - exhibitions
Lovely street photography from William Klein, marred by the fact that there had been some kind of classic Brussels fuckery at the ticket office, which meant that the sole employee was on the phone and ignoring the giant queue. Cue near-anarchy/riot/total breakdown of queue discipline, well-heeled bruxellois making a run for the unmanned exhibition door.
The second exhibition was the amazing, amazing Icons of Modern Art at the Fondation Vuitton, as a late birthday present of sorts. Lord, it was beautiful, the room full of All The Matisse is worth the ticket price alone, it's bloody ravishing (Julian Barnes in LRB wrote a really good interesting review of it) Packed though. The roof was the only almost calm spot and a number of small spats broke out over the lavatory queue and other matters.
The chaotic timed entry system also meant we had to spend 2 hours wandering the Jardin d'Acclimatation, a good contender for Most Depressing Attraction in Paris (Especially On A Rainy Week Day).
Welcome to your terminal decline which will cost you €38 and your will to live
As well as many closed fairground rides in garish colours, wholly unchanged in the 12 years since I last went, they had about 7 pissed off hens, a gang of feral peacocks, hanging around thuggishly:
and, sorrow of sorrows, a BEAR, still. When I went there regularly with my tiny children when we lived in Paris they had a bear and it seemed like a mad 19th century throwback even then. Poor bear. We had to drink a great deal of consolatory wine in a bad Jardins d'Acclimatation restaurant that smelled of drains.
Despite the fact we went all the way to Paris, I had no time whatsoever to buy any decent cakes, and had to make do with a very ordinary flan. We did witness two thoroughly Parisian engueulades (street shouting matches) though, so I knew I was in Paris. On the way back, my husband, who is wired 100% differently to me, made us run through the security screening and illicitly sneak onto the train before the one we were booked on, meaning I spent 1h30 writhing in an agony of IN THE WRONG SEAT and DOING A WRONG THING Britishness.
3. I failed to save a rabbit
"Oh look, a baby rabbit," I thought to myself, heading to the metro last week and took a picture, then, only about 20 minutes later, did I think that perhaps a shitty little patch of scrub ground by the metro was not the greatest spot for a baby rabbit. I went back with a shoe box and lurked around for half an hour in the dog shit like a mad person trying to find it, but failed. Poor rabbit. I am sorry I was too dozy to save you. I hope someone else did.
(I confess also to a degree of relief, because Satan II is the last thing this household needs right now. Hillary the hen remains impossible to contain in any kind of hen house and spends her days scratching the last pitiful remnants of grass off our scrubby back yard, shouting at me and shitting luxuriantly on my back step. The tortoises have been de-fridged and are in the bathroom scrabbling like fuck. The dog is, well. The dog is just the dog and disapproves of everything, as usual and is wishing fervently we would all fuck off and die).
4. I passed my Dutch exam
94% schriftelijk, 98% mondeling, this at least means I can legitimately nag my children about their Dutch results, not that I need any enabling to nag. As of today I swapped to intensief which means 4 hours of Dutch each time. Four hours! We talked about: hangovers and awful children, both subjects I know something about.
M: Are you a Master of Dutch now? You will live forever in a Renaissance penumbra. When are you coming home?
E: BRB once I've forced my way through the tram door with this MASSIVE RUFF and these brocade pantaloons.
I was sufficiently emboldened to ask for tickets to the botanic garden and give my post code in Dutch yesterday (oh yes, we also went to a botanic garden, it's all go round here). The problem with learning Dutch is that all Dutch speakers are so fucking brilliant at other languages they don't need to put up with your pitiful, stumbling attempts at their language, so this was the first time i had gone beyond 2 words. I managed a full SIX words without the man on the till reverting to another language.
5. I bought 10kg of chocolate chips from Colruyt
I'll be honest, I didn't really think this through. I have been looking for good choc chips for a while, for brioche roll/cookie purposes and a bloke told me you could get Callebaut ones in Colruyt, the legendary Belgian discount supermarket. I did not realise they would be in such vast quantities, or that it is horribly easy just to take a fistful on one's way down to empty the washing machine and that soon you become fat and spotty and have to dress like a plump mime (today's outfit). Whilst buying the chocolate chips, I dislodged an avalanche of 5 kg bags on my own head, giving myself a split lip which I consider a strong candidate for Most Belgian Injury of 2017.
6. I am "Kinshasa Production Crew"
Obviously (and sadly), this did not mean I went to Kinshasa. However my translation client won an award for his fantastic video and I made my whole family watch the awards show SHOUTING "I KNOW HIM I WORKED ON THIS" despite my contribution being, frankly, ridiculous. I grab any shred of kudos where I can.
I have also unblocked the toilet 700000 times (the road safety armadillo toy is still causing havoc with our cistern).
I read many books, but failed to update the reading list. This will be speedily rectified.
I have written many things to order, none of them very impressive or glamorous. I did write a guide to explaining Brexit to young children, which I quite enjoyed. My own children found it painfully, tragically unfunny.
I have enrolled in a proper research library (in the hope of eventually writing something else)! It was like being back at Oxford in my first year when I was so scared of not knowing where to go or what to do and being shamed that I just sat paralysed in my room until lovely William showed me where I could obtain books. There was no lovely William this time, just some really dusty index cards and long dark corridors and an immensely complex system involving exchanging various plastic disks and a flashing light. I have made some progress in 22 years, because I was able to go up to the desk and declare my total ignorance and ask for an explanation. No one was particularly helpful, but it felt like progress anyway.
Most excitingly, I visited the brand new Manneken Pis wardrobe museum. More of this in my next post. With pictures, oh yes.
You? Any excitement? As you can see from the foregoing, the bar is low, so low.