Friday, November 25, 2005
A Winter Wonderland
It seems that the 'worst winter in Belgie in 50 years', is wasting no time in arriving now that it has been called out and predicted in newspapers. We had a long summer, followed by a shortish Autumn, and now here we are - 10pm Friday 25th November - with steady snow falling outside. As you can see in the photo, the back balcony is already well-covered.
I had my 3 hours of Dutch class today, then went to a lovely cafe near Grote Markt, to wait for Gert to finish at the office. I was talking with the waitress (as you do) and it turns out her sister (the other waitress) is off to Australia for 6 weeks in February. They were curious to know about New Zealand, and oddly enough, I assured them it was far better than Australia ... as one quite naturally would.
Usually, because I'm going to the city and meeting Gert after work, I dress rather nicely for language class however ... today I dressed warmly, as it was already ice cold at 1pm when I left home. I had multiple layers that consisted of a decent black top, covered by a slightly less decent pale blue polar fleece, which was in turn covered by a disreputable heavy (and very warm) black coat of Gert's.
I'd thought it through, I was going to lurk about in the dark and make him come out of the office to meet me ... no one (as in his collegues) would be harmed by my appalling winter wear ... sigh.
What were the first words I heard from my Belgian ... 'Come with me, we have a reception over in the Town Hall'.
I was mortified, and negotiated all the way across the Square. I could go back to the cafe, I could wait out in the hall, I could ... but no, he assured me that it was nothing to worry about.
When completely caught out it's really better to just pretend you're some kind of special, yet completely confident, foreigner ... I stripped down to my lovely black top, and tied my Turkish scarf in that casual chic way that other women do (believing I had pulled 'chic' off was all that mattered), ignoring my faded blue jeans and purple Doc Maartens ... mmm, I put on my glasses, as every little thing helps. Anyway, Gert wouldn't have taken me in if I was completely horrendous, but he did look ever so good in his beautiful suit and tie.
It was an interesting outing. There was Belgian beer and lovely sandwiches in the Leys Room (named after a painter), then he and I toured the Council Meeting Room, the Board of Burgomaster and Aldermen Meeting Room, and the wedding room. It's a marvellous Town Hall, with a board listing Antwerpen's Mayors ... dating back to, at least, the late 1400s.
Going home was another story ... it was snowing and getting heavier by the moment. We jumped on a No.11 Tram, and settled into the warmth. Alas and alack, at some point the driver flicked on a notice that informed us he wouldn't be taking us all the way. We had to disembark about 3kms from home, in the dark in a snow storm ... nasty driver.
We made it home, (whisper: and watched Eastenders - it's an expat thing, what can I say). I had a little Vegemite on Cruskits to settle my tummy after 2 beers that, in retrospect, I'm not sure I liked as I feel rather ill as I write this.
Ahhh, but the Vegemite ... I was over in Brussels on Wednesday, catching up with Alison, recently returned from her trip home to Canada. We had just reached the point of the first coffee when she remembered a gift she had for me. I was stunned and amazed when the Canuck presented me with a jar of Vegemite. Stunned, amazed, delighted and curious actually.
It turns out that she had found it in a rather special store in the small village of Kortenberg, where she lives, just outside Brussels. She said the store itself is interesting, and often full of the sounds of many languages and accents, as all kinds of everything from everywhere can be found there. I'll write more when I've been there, as I'm curious to see it for myself. Sigh, needless to say, both her and Andrew expressed grave doubts about the contents of said jar of Vegemite and have so far resisted my best efforts in providing them with a taste test.