It’s not even December…

The Sint hasn’t been yet…

But there is a Christmas Tree in Brussels.

At around 6:00 AM on Thursday the Christmas tree bound for Grand Place finished its journey to Brussels, ready to prepare for the launch of the seasonal festival in the city at the end of November.

Welcomed by Alderman for Culture, Delphine Houba, the tree was erected shortly before 8:00 AM under the eye of Mayor Philippe Close.

I was going to wander out at lunchtime to take a look but work got in the way. Luckily, however, you can watch it on the webcam.

It doesn’t move much.

Pizza update

Wednesday evenings are becoming a struggle.

Last week the pizzeria was unexpectedly closed with no indication of why. We kept glancing at the site over the next few days and, although the opening times kept shifting around, by Tuesday it was looking like things were back to normal. So I took orders from the boys intending to pick up the pizzas on Wednesday evening while the boys were at karate.

Of course, with the moving opening times, I wanted to be sure so I checked the website while at work (at about 3:30pm) and it told me that they were going to open in half an hour. Things were looking good.

Things were looking better when I reached the station and found that, the first time this week, the train was both on time and not crowded. Things were looking so positive that I almost texted my partner to say everything was wonderful. Almost.

It was a good thing that I didn’t because she called me about five minutes after the train left the station to say that she had just checked the same site and the pizzeria was now closed.

I hadn’t realised just how loud my howl of existential despair could be until someone pulled the emergency brake and the conductor came running to seen who had died. (A slight exaggeration, I admit)

So plan B it was.

I don’t know what is going on. My guess is that they have some sort of staffing problem. It’s a small business with only two people working on any given day — one to take orders and make pizzas and the other to handle deliveries — so if one is off for any reason, they won’t be able to open.

We haven’t given up hope yet. While there are other pizzerias in the area, this one is the best by a long way. And they do a Wednesday discount which makes them very affordable as a regular event. But if this situation continues, plan B is going to end up being plan A.

Five Things #12

The Etiquette of Mythique Fine Dining by Carolyn Rahaman is a light but effective exploration of the challenges and dangers that come from cooking and eating magical foods.

Ed Yong on the predator that makes great white sharks flee in fear. Better to run than to have your liver squeezed out.

André Spicer on how organisations enshrine collective stupidity and employees are rewarded for checking their brains at the office door.

Denzil at Discovering Belgium takes an 11 km circular walk through the Forêt de Soignes and discovers the Monument aux Forestiers, a stone circle that memorialises foresters killed during World War One.

We Are Cult revisits Clockwise.

Five Things #11

In The Fish of Lijiang by Chen Qiufan a workaholic office worker is diagnosed with a stress-induced illness and sent to the rehabilitation center in Lijiang. The city isn’t as he remembers it, though, and then the story takes the sort of left turn that you would expect from someone like Philip K. Dick.

Dr Beth Singler discusses Blade Runner, Zhora, her snake, and the ethics of sexbots and slavery.

Simon Brew argues that obsessing over box office receipts puts us in danger here of giving movie studios even more excuses to avoid risks in favour of staying within the boundaries of mainstream fare.

Nnedi Okorafor defines Africanfuturism.

Denzil at Discovering Belgium visits the Menin Gate for the Last Post.

Blankenberge and Bruges

Today is a public holiday and, because none of the boys had any activities planned for Sunday, we decided to go out for the day. So the normal Sunday morning lie-in was cancelled and we made the two hour drive to Blankenberge.

This is a nice little seaside town and one that we may well return to when the weather is a bit less wintry. Going to the beach in November isn’t clever, which is why we went to visit the Serpentarium. Handily, we have ZOO memberships which (for an annual price) gives us free entry to Antwerp Zoo, Planckendael and the Serpentarium.

The Serpentarium isn’t large — it took us less than an hour to see everything — but there is a lot to see. They also bring a snake out every hour, which provides an opportunity to interact with the animal, although I was a bit disappointed to discover that we weren’t able to actually handle the snake.

And then we were done and, after a spot of lunch, we headed into Bruges.

Bruges_Zot

Bruges is a lovely old town and, by parking just outside the city we were able to park for free. So after a twenty minute walk, we came face to face with the fact that, for a family of five, every activity will set us bach about €50. This will only get worse when the twins are a little older and start paying higher prices. So while there were plenty of places we would have liked to see — most notably the Historium — we gave most of these a miss and, instead, too a horse-drawn carriage ride around the city.

We need to look into what sorts of deals or tourist memberships we can find, but we will certainly be going back.

Beer-Museum

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.