Antipopulism

I mentioned, last week, that Flanders now has a government. This is a three-party coalition made up of the centre-right separatists of the N-VA, the Christian Democrats and the Liberal OpenVLD. Notable is the fact that, even though the far-right Vlaams Belang did well in the election, they have been excluded from the government.

Inevitably, some people are not happy and the first of (the organisers hope) a series of demonstrations will take place this coming Sunday.

The part of the article that leapt out at me, though, was this:

The Facebook page of the event announced that banners and flags are welcome, but “slogans with forbidden signs and racism” will not be tolerated.

Anyone who feels the need to tell their supporters to keep their racism under wraps has lost the argument before they began.

Excuses

Whenever Belgium has an election, much time is spent on forming coalitions and these happen at all levels. The last set of elections were on May 26th and, while the federal government negotiations are still ongoing, the separatist, centre-right and liberal parties in the Flemish parliament have managed to agree a coalition which means that Flanders now has a government.

It’s not been the best of starts for the leader of this coalition, Jan Jambon, who was caught playing a game on his smartphone while a parliamentary session was in progress. He does, however, have an explanation:

… he was playing ‘Toy Blast’ and not ‘Angry Birds’ as had been widely reported.

So that’s alright then.

English people speaking Dutch

This is what I asked for.

This is what the nice young man behind the bar handed to me.

I’m not sure how I managed to mispronounce Chimay Blauw quite that badly but, given that I did, I should probably stick to coffee for the rest of today.

For the record, I don’t normally drink bottled water. In fact, I never drink bottled water because the very idea of putting water into bottles and then charging people for the inconvenience strikes me as being fundamentally stupid. But it’s popular in Belgium.

And sparkling bottled water tastes disgusting.

Street parties, spaghetti westerns and my new favourite IPA

Kattenfeest is a street party that takes locally every year on the penultimate weekend of August. It’s a day of music, street theatre and kids activities as well as an opportunity for local clubs and groups to generate some interest and raise a bit of revenue that runs well into the evening. We don’t tend to stay overly late (young kids and all that) but it is a pleasant way to pass a sunny afternoon.

We ended up at a bar being manned by the karate club which had put a mat out in order to perform some demonstrations. Here they were serving a selection of local beers, which is how I came to be drinking a Schieve Hop from the Brouwerij De Schieve. I think I have just discovered my new favourite IPA.

Schieve Hop is a very pleasant dark blonde beer with a flavour that is hoppy, but not overpoweringly so. It went down very well, and was much appreciated, on the warm summer afternoon and is a beer I will certainly look out for again. I also loved the fact that the glass was almost as slanted as I was.

And so to my discovery of the day.

I have mentioned the music and this takes the form of a series of bands that play throughout the afternoon and into the evening. One of these bands (Taat Zot & Jasper, I think) was playing a series of 1950s and 1960s covers, including a rather good rendition of the theme from A Fistful of Dollars (or something very similar). This inspired a brief YouTube search and the discovery that this theme has also been performed by the Danish National Symphony Orchestra.

Enjoy.

Looking forward to a fun Autumn

As someone who commutes to Brussels by train every day, I was less than overjoyed to see an article start with the words There is bad news for those that commute to work in the capital by train.

Infrabel, the company that manages the rail infrastructure has announced that they need to carry out maintenance work in the tunnel that goes from Brussels North, through Brussels Central (my stop) to Brussels South. The engineering work will reduce the capacity of this tunnel which, according to Infrabel, means that dozens of trains will need to be scrapped.

And then they pass the buck…

It will be up to the rail operator NMBS to draft a revised timetable.

I don’t dispute the need for maintenance work and the Brussels north-south line is in a tunnel that runs through the centre of Brussels. So any maintenance work will inevitably be disruptive.

What I find wearing is that, whenever there is any disruption or problem, both Infrabel and NMBS immediately respond by blaming each other. And sure enough…

NMBS told ‘De Tijd’÷ that it was only told about the work three months ago. However, Infrabel denies this and says that talks about modernisation work have been going on since November 2017 and numerous meetings have been held.

I have never really understood the rationale for having separate companies for the infrastructure and the trains. At the end of the day it’s all one service as far as rail users are concerned and, quite frankly, a bit more integration would be nice.

Big Art, Small Country

Belgium is set to become the home of the largest public artwork in Europe. Bernar Venet’s Arc Majeur was originally set to be installed in France way back in 1984 but was abandoned due to local opposition.

Now, the French artist will finally be able to realize his original vision for the gigantic piece of art, which has been placed across a busy highway in Belgium. Once unveiled in October, the 250-tonne steel sculpture will be the largest public artwork in Europe.

We shall have to keep an eye out for it when we next find ourselves on the E411 between Namur and Luxembourg.

Camp

This week has been a bit different as all three boys have been away at camp. They are members of a youth group and the week long (ten days for the oldest) summer camp is how they end the season.

So Eve and I delivered the twins to a field last Sunday (Macsen, being older, was part of the group that cycled there the previous Thursday).

Duvel at the Kamp

This left us wondering what to do with ourselves now that we were suddenly kids-free for a week. On Monday, we stayed in but on Tuesday we went out for sushi.

Leffe at Koji Sushi

We have been here before with the boys and, while they enjoyed the presentation they struggled a bit with the food and we haven’t taken them back. So this week seemed a good time for another visit.

I like sushi and the Koji sushi restaurant does a fantastic meal for two delivered, spectacularly, on a boat.

On Wednesday we went out again, this time to Volt, a restaurant we have been to multiple times.

Tripel Karmeliet at Volt

Volt is a reliably good restaurant and probably the only place locally that has a range of international foods on the menu.

The thing about Belgium is that, while the local food is very good, there isn’t much interest in anything beyond the borders. Which is odd given the extent to which Belgian food is a result of the country being stuck between France and Germany.

And so to Thursday when we decided to try something different and went to Het Atrium.

St. Bernadus at Het Atrium

The outdoor seating here is really nice and, while the menu is largely the usual Belgian fare they did have one addition — the Atrium Burger. I would never have believed that I could rave about a burger, but this was absolutely fantastic. It’s a sizable chunk of meat, along with a generous serving of bacon, an egg, and other stuff and it really was exceptional.

I will definitely go back for this again.

On Friday it rained and we went back to Volt.

Chimay Blauw at Volt

Today is the last day of camp and we are about to go and collect the twins. And then I shall have to make peace with my credit card.